Public Relations Professionals Discuss How Reputation Affects Profits
Fuzion PR’s Greg Canty has a unique take on the Facebook situation. Recently a whistleblower made strong allegations about the effect that the social media platform has on its users’ mental health. She stated that the company has thousands of pages of research proving that the company is hurting the body image and emotions of its users. Greg remembers how positive the company started out. The conglomerate which dominates the social media landscape has been accused by whistleblowers of knowingly allowing the posting and sharing of harmful content.
Speaking to Ellen Gunning on Dublin City FM’s Mediascope about the tech industry, Greg said “It is dominated by people who think in a particular way.” The thinking in Silicon Valley appears to be very binary. Tech gurus know how to limit what is possible and control their platforms. The algorithms on social media can determine exactly what a company sees. “Gone are the good old days when feeds were showing what the most recent content their friends posted was. We do not see everything that is available” Greg said regarding his take on the algorithm. Experts have expressed concern that Facebook allows the dissemination of toxic content and false information.
Understanding Business Motivations
Motivation is the key to determining if a business is ethical. Innovation is a wonderful thing. When companies modernize social media to make it more enjoyable for users the world thrives. However, Canty frowns upon the business for deliberately creating echo chambers. Surrounding anti vaccine advocates with misinformation is very dangerous. Large corporations have a responsibility to protect customers. No amount of money in the world is worth the integrity of a platform. Companies that knowingly promoted harmful tobacco products lost the trust of consumers in the end and failed.
Zuckerberg has data that would imply that the website is curating harmful imagery and information. Changing their operations is the only way to turn public opinion around. The whistleblower has alleged that Facebook knowingly neglected to take steps that would have improved the platform and made it a safer online space. Much of the accusations surround the concern that Facebook is a harmful online destination for young girls in particular because of the volume of damaging content regarding body image, dieting and the beauty standard. Facebook is the biggest social media network in the world with 2.89 billion active users, and the toxicity of some of its content can have a detrimental impact on its users.
Tangible actions can help smooth over the damage done by this crisis in public relations. When a company is in crisis, the most important steps to take are acknowledging the issue, admitting that the problem exists and showing a sincere desire to improve and become better. Users need to see the company actively making their platform safer and more reliable to change their perception. Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are synonymous with each other, and if they want to uphold a good reputation, they need to make an effort to introduce change.
Consumers believe that a company is more authentic when a brand communicates what they do through action. Wetherspoons have had their reputation tarnished in the minds of many of its customers following their treatment of staff amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Wetherspoons was accused of deciding not to pay employees a living wage until the government provided them with financial help. The company’s actions have damaged their reputation, and the treatment of staff by businesses as large as Wetherspoons has the power to sustain a great reputation or destroy it entirely. Any company is vulnerable to losing sales if they are accused of actions that can be seen as harmful, such as what happened to Wetherspoons after the allegations came out. If a business wants to be trusted they must earn it and maintain it.
Will companies like Facebook and Wetherspoons suffer because of the way their actions are viewed? Definitely. The reputation of a brand can increase or decrease their profit margins. Money is a method of voting that allows people to show what they will and won’t accept from companies. If brands want to make money, they should make a transparent effort to act ethically. Take a page from Greg’s public relations experience and guide your brands towards good and ethical actions that the world can see.
Listen to Ellen Gunning’s conversation with Greg Canty on Spotify:
Originally aired on Dublin City FM’s Mediascope Programme