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Brands should NOT allow themselves to be held to ransom

2011 April 4

More and more organisations, from all sectors, are saying that there’s been a power shift between brands and consumers. They accept that the days of ‘broadcast’ PR are over and that consumers now have freedom of speech on the internet and an associated share of voice. In the majority of cases this has been a welcome repositioning, but with this openness comes the opportunist.


Brand Ransom

It is fair to say that in 98% of cases feedback is a very welcome benefit of social media; it captures that spontaneous thought, that anecdotal response to a situation, that would never be conveyed or expressed in a survey or face to face. Companies and brands are opening up to the need to keep their finger on these pulses and, as a result, many are reaping the rewards and stimulating positive discussion. But where they are still struggling is in their dealing with the odd, but more thoughtfully constructed cynical comment which often manifests itself in the form of a ‘loaded comment’ or the ‘flippant remark’. These statement (as such that they don’t open up a discussion or float an opinion) set out to rock the boat.

I often try and draw parity between social media and general day to day communication between individuals. You will always find individuals in life who are opportunists – they book one thing but surreptiously expect another, but where this is seen as an isolated insistence offline, online the repercussions reverberate beyond any customer service handling of the matter, as the comment is there for all to see and draw conclusions upon. The challenge for companies is how to remain objective to the initial cause, but stamp out any on-going ramifications.


When we talk about a mitigation strategy many people think about global crisis, product recall or law suites. Yet a mitigation strategy should cover all of these things, as well as the more mundane day to day issues that, on face value, may seem less important but in the long run could cost the company thousands  in unseen costs as a result of affected choice and opinion. It is therefore important that brands are:

  • A) aware of each and every comment about them,
  • B) have a pre-planned idea of how they are going to answer any adverse reactions (irrespective of whether they have previously been addressed in context offline).

At least in this way they can make sure that a balanced interpretation of any adverse comment is heard and therefore they are not simply being held to ransom by the opportunist looking for an additional perk as a result of their ‘loaded comment’ or ‘flippant remark’.

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