We live in the age of always on. I don't just mean the electronic devices that surround us, but that the audience itself is always on, which means we are always on. There is no time now when you and your employees are not potentially on YouTube, on Twitter, on Facebook. Your average smartphone or handheld camera can boot and be ready to record in 3-8 seconds, so if you and your company are not performing up to expectations, the cameras are rolling.
Some of the more famous examples of always on that have bitten companies?
(what's especially scary for the brand is that searching for Fedex in YouTube brings this out as the first result)
(again, search for Domino's Pizza on YouTube and this is the first result)
Pop quiz: how often do you search for your company's name on YouTube?
In the age of always on, how do you operate effectively? Well, I suppose you could always back draconian Internet censorship legislation and try to legislate your way out of failure, but that's not really an effective way to operate.
A more viable strategy might be something like this:
1. Run a company worth working for. We talked about this a while back, about having a legitimate vision and mission.
2. Hire people who genuinely want to work for you because they believe in what you do. Small businesses can do this relatively easily - once you become a large corporation, it's exponentially harder (but not impossible) to bring on employees that have belief in you.
3. Figure out what the operational impediments are that keep employees from doing a 100% job. In the case of the Fedex guy, it could have been an employee having a bad day, or it could have been a delivery schedule that put added pressure to just "get it done" and not "get it done right".
4. Encourage your employees to have a digital presence (this is dependent on steps 1 and 2) so that their other human aspects show regularly. It's much easier to say, hey, I'm human and was having a bad day if you have a well-run blog, Twitter feed, etc. that's showing other aspects of your professional life. Your CEO should have a blog, and so should your marketing intern.
5. Say I'm sorry, but say it in a couple of different ways as humanly as possible. Domino's did well with their CEO apologizing for their employees' misdeeds:
In the case of Fedex, where it was an employee not behaving with gross misconduct, having the employee appear with the president/CEO explaining why the package was delivered like that in an honest, sincere way would go a long way towards reassuring the public that the majority of Fedex packages are not delivered so carelessly.
In the age of always on, we have to be able to demonstrate that we are all human beings, not robots, who cannot be always on and delivering perfect performance 100% of the time. Having dedicated employees and dedicated media channels well in advance of a crisis are the necessary ingredients to mitigating those times when we are not on.
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