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Do not read the article without watching the above video, as you would not be able to understand the thoughts of Shivnath Thukral on the Future of Reputation. Day two at IndiaSocial Summit 2012 started with a hard-hitting topic on how should brands manage their online reputation, where words spread faster than fire. The above video by Guardian highlights that fact that one may not be aware of how things could shape up in the world of social media. The concern today is no more about whether you are online or not but the greater concern is that people are talking about you and what are you doing about it.
Shivnath started his power packed presentation saying that an incident can happen from anywhere and lead to anything. To quote an example, he shared the recent blame game of the Indian Government and Army and shook us up with his question on who owns the reputation of the Indian Army.
Moving further, he played some stills from the BP oil spills story that had happened in the Gulf Of Mexico. The incident which created an uproar amongst the online community also made sure that the Chief Executive, Tony Hayward of BP is made to pay heavily. He lost his high paying job.
But has it always been like this?
Before Shivnath could take his point further, he warned that the visuals on his slides could be disturbing. Indeed, it was painful as it reminded us of the story of Bhopal Gas tragedy. Shivnath stressed upon a simple fact that although it is the same story like the BP oil spill, the CEO of UCC, Warren Anderson is living a leisurely retired life in comparison to Hayward. Scenarios would have been different if the Bhopal Gas tragedy would have happened in today’s time.
So the key takeaway here is : A CEO can no longer say I am not responsible, sorry he is going to die if he says that and that’s what happened to Hayward.
Do B2B companies need to worry?
London riots, Middle East crisis, Modi vs Tharoor, nobody was spared. In fact, for the first time media is getting questioned. If you are still thinking that you would be spared then god save you. And this leads us to an important question about where does the buck stop. He shared that if Radiagate would have never happened then media questioning would not have happened either. At his end in Essar, the company has also not been spared but the only difference is that they show the attitude of “WE CARE.”
What happens when I don’t care?
To elaborate the above thought, Shivnath shared the recent story that made headlines when a Goldman Sachs employee shared his story about why he is leaving Goldman Sachs. When firms don’t care, like Goldman Sachs didn’t, its reputation is at stake. This also leads us to another question – why are such incidents happening? Have brands/governments broken the social contract with the customers/citizens? Citizen movements led by Anna Hazare in the recent times go on to prove that there is certainly a loss of trust.
Finally, Shivnath wrapped up his visually packed presentation with few thoughts to ponder upon :
1. Is it about the medium or message?
2. How comfortable is one with someone who doesn’t reveal who he or she is in social media. The world of Twitter is filled with such examples.
3. Perception and reality differ in social media. Shivnath shared the example of David Cameron. The UK Prime Minister backed social media during the Middle East uprising but at the same time wanted to block it during the London Riots.
In other words, you can’t hide but you can keep running as long as you wish. These were the final words of his talk at the IndiaSocial Summit 2012.