How Long Do You Let Your Brand’s Reputation Suffer?

On SufferingYou’re a public relations professional or agency. How are you monitoring your brand and those of your clients?

You are actually monitoring, right?

I ask on the back of an interesting story regarding Michigan-based PR firm Tanner Friedman and their current lawsuit regarding a fake Twitter account.

Back in January this year, an account was set up on Twitter that used the name @TannerFriedman. For anyone seeing the tweets from the account, you might expect them to be the latest company or client news from the PR firm.

Not so.

The account had nothing to do with Tanner Friedman. Instead, it was set up by someone who then went on to post a defamatory tweet as the account’s introduction to Twitter, and then subsequently posted negative tweets about the firm.

To keep things interesting, though, the account also took tweets from the Twitter accounts of actual Tanner Friedman employees to make it look more authentic.

Jump forward to March 27, when Tanner Friedman complained to Twitter about the fake account.

That’s more than two months later.

Despite the fake Twitter account posting about the company. Despite the fact that the tweets are said to be damaging and embarrassing to Tanner Friedman. Despite the company being active on Twitter through its employees.

So why so long? Weren’t Tanner Friedman monitoring their own brand as well as that of their clients?

There are numerous tools available to track what’s being said about you. Some are free, like Social Mention, Google Alerts, Filtrbox, BackType and, of course, Twitter.

There are also premium solutions available as well, like Radian6, Nielsen BuzzMetrics, Cision Social Media and Trackur to name just a few.

So it’s not as if the tools aren’t there.

Indeed, Tanner Friedman’s own blurb describes them as, “…an innovative and imaginative communication resource…” with a “…commitment to new technologies…”.

So what happened?

I sent an email to Tanner Friedman to ask their views on the current situation. Kudos to Don Tanner, who was pretty prompt at getting back to me. Here’s what Don had to say about the time lapse:

“We dealt with the problem once we became aware that there was a problem. The problematic tweets did not occur immediately. Once they did and we became aware of them, we acted immediately.”

With regards not having the Tanner Friedman account registered to the company to start with:

“We each had our own Twitter pages along with our own Facebook and Tanner Friedman Facebook pages. Further, as with most professional service firms, we tend to put our clients first. Further (and maybe it is a Midwest thing), Twitter has only emerged here in the past few months.”

It’s never pleasant to be at the centre of negativity when you’re looking after a PR client. It’s even less so when the negativity is about you. Yet one thing you can’t do is let it run.

While it’s clear that Tanner Friedman acted once aware of the account, there still seems to be a time lapse between the first tweet and the complaint, considering more tweets were sent throughout February and March.This is where the obvious problem lies.

Two hours can be a long time when it comes to bad news spreading on social media; two months is a lifetime in comparison.

What this lawsuit shows is the need to be proactive at every turn when it comes to hearing the conversations that are taking place as well as securing your brand early on. Otherwise, you might just find that someone’s been proactive for you.

Of course, Twitter needs to take responsibility as well. Account authorization has to be stepped up (which they are currently looking at) and their customer service currently leaves a lot to be desired. If they really want to take the service to the next level, they need to actually offer a service that looks after its users.

How about you? Do you know what’s being said about you online? How do you monitor the conversations and what advice do you give your clients and employees?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Dude Crush

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