Early warning systems are increasingly important to companies who want to safeguard their reputations. An email from Nathan Gilliatt in response to our survey (Safeguarding Reputation) alerted me to a telling example of the benefits of early warning systems that went beyond the usual Kryptonite one that has circulated widely. On his blog he mentions a tragic incident with a Hasbro toy that first appeared on an amazon.com product review and luckily was noticed by an employee. The incident generated a recall from Hasbro before it made headlines. Gilliatt blogs:
“As we saw in the Hasbro example, a crisis may not be an ‘Internet’ problem, but online sources may provide the company’s first warning. Other high-profile bad-hair days have migrated from the online conversation to media that those executives do notice. Why would you voluntarily miss out on the opportunity to catch it before it’s a front-page crisis? You can decide whether it makes sense to engage bloggers in a crisis. It might make more sense to stay out of the conversation sometimes; it would certainly be harder to engage them once the crisis starts. But we’ve seen the examples of PR crises that started online before moving to a broader audience. Whether you choose to engage bloggers or not, you need to pay attention to what happens to your brand online.”
As we mention in the survey, only a minority of companies monitor the Internet for how they are being portrayed online. Gilliatt writes about the wisdom of “micro and macro monitoring” to help companies see emerging problems before they turn into catastrophes. He makes a good point and I am going to brush up on his advice.