The story began in France, where Facebook was rolling out its Timeline feature. Since older wall posts on Facebook had no comment or ‘like’ button, when these messages appeared on their personal Timeline, people panicked, thinking their private messages had been copied to their public forum.
Facebook was quick to deny the rumours, saying “our engineers investigated these reports and found that the messages were older wall posts that had always been visible on the users’ profiles.” It had seen a similar false rumour start in Finland last year and was no doubt determined to protect its share price from any more untrue stories.
This story illustrates one of the key themes of our cover story in this month’s PR Strategy edition. We look at how chief executives’ reputations are affected by digital media. While it used to be said that yesterday’s news was today’s fish and chip paper, this is no longer the case. Digital media now means that stories can live forever online, available for search engines to locate.
We also talk in PR Strategy to Joel Morris, public affairs and communications director of Coca-Cola GB and Ireland, about how social media can help stories spread even faster than traditional media. Which is great, of course, if it’s a message your brand wants to disseminate, but very worrying if it is a negative story or even worse, a false rumour.
“It is sometimes hard to predict what you see in social media that will grow or even snowball and what won’t,” he warns. “Sometimes it’s the things you weren’t expecting to escalate that do. So there is a real challenge in terms of being ultra vigilant.”
Mark Ritson also warns of the dangers of social media in his column looking at a Waitrose Twitter campaign that went awry. A light-hearted request from the supermarket for consumers to complete the tweet “I shop at Waitrose because…” led to a number of silly, scathing and sometimes rude replies. Ritson argues that “a message seen by millions that contradicts a company’s stated marketing strategy and links the brand with negative associations is a failure, no matter what medium it is delivered through”.
So when getting the social message right is so vital, we’ve taken a look at the especially tricky world of celebrity endorsements. These days, companies are using celebrities not just on instinct but because they have quantifiable data showing that the famous faces’ social following matches that of the brand.
So who suits your brand – David Beckham, Lana del Rey, Myleene Klass or Peter Andre? You (and your chief executive) might be surprised by the social data results…