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Business strategies to combat the disgruntled tweeter

September 10, 2013 Headline News, Social Media No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59A disgruntled British Airways traveller who decided to broadcast a complaint about the airline on Twitter, rather than go though more orthodox channels, has exposed the future of corporate communications, according to an expert in the field.

The aggrieved customer sent out a tweet telling people not to fly BA. That alone wouldn’t make it unusual, as disgruntled customers have resorted to Twitter before.

But Chicago businessman Hasan Syed took it a stage further. Annoyed at how British Airways was handling his father’s lost-baggage complaint, so he tweeted messages such as: “Don’t fly GOOGLE_DISPLAY_WEB_ADS@BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous”. Now comes the twist. He also paid to have Twitter promote his tweet in the New York City and United Kingdom markets, reportedly spending about USD 1000 and reaching nearly 80,000 people.

According to James Frayne, a communications consultant and a former director of communications in government, Syed action is a taste of the sort of things businesses are going to have to learn to deal with.

“We are witnessing the beginning of a democratic revolution in corporate reputation management,” Frayne wrote in Britain’s City A.M.

“Ordinary people are becoming the primary voice determining what the outside world thinks about modern businesses. Not mainstream journalists, politicians, or so-called stakeholders, but ordinary members of the public with an internet connection and a viewpoint.”

Frayne, whose new book, Meet the People, about how to manage public opinion, is published by Harriman House, says the world is entering a new phase in which businesses can no longer rely on the traditional communications model.

Ordinary people – and passegners – conducting giant public conversations online are having a major effect on business reputations.

Frayne advises businesses to “develop the same approach taken by the best political campaigns” and switch focus to influencing public debate.

The first step for a business is to integrate all communications operations, so that one team takes charge of the total image. “A director of communications should play the equivalent role of campaign manager.”

Frayne says another defining characteristic of modern campaigns “is the deployment of messages that appeal to the public emotionally”. Emotion trumps reason in debate, research indicates. Businesses should push their fairness, honesty, and decency, Frayne suggests, and if these sentiments are corroborated and endorsed by respected independents, even better.

Importantly, businesses need to speed up their decision-making time, he stresses. They no longer have hours to respond to a developing story. Deadlines have birtually disappeared and firms must engage constantly with the outside world to shape opinion.

Examples of smart thinking, according to Frayne, includes Porsche, “which famously mobilised thousands against a proposed new charge on higher-CO2-emitting vehicles”.

Written by : Peter Needham

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