The Wildfire Effect or How Social Media can destroy a brand as fast as it creates one (Part 1 of 2)
A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire that can, given the right set of circumstances, spread quickly to consume and devastate a large area of land. Unlike other fires, once started wildfires unexpectedly and without warning change direction as well as jump gaps in roads and rivers making its containment a nearly impossible challenge.
A recent TripAdvisor update reminded me of how a negative comment, like the devastation left by a wildfire, can grow to quickly and permanently consume or destroy one’s personal brand. Specifically, how a brand can from a small spark of discontent, uncontrollably rage through the social media world to undermine years of building the good will and reputation necessary for success.
I have written extensively about how the power of virtual publicity leads to the vulnerability of everyone’s brand reputation. We merely have to refer to brand disasters such as Paula Deen and Lance Armstrong to truly understand the speed at which one can find themself out of favor with the world.
Of course you might be inclined to point out that these individuals did it to themselves – which would be true. However, and overlooking the fact that we will all at one point in time make a mistake, there are many examples of individuals who have without fault found themselves in unfavorable circumstances. People such as Richard Jewell immediately come to mind in terms of having their reputations unjustly tarnished. Jewell, as you may recall was almost instantly villainized in the media as the one responsible for the Olympic Games bomb in Atlanta. Ultimately exonerated, the irony is that his decision to turn in a suspicious looking package to authorities is what landed Jewell in hot water. What is the old saying about no good deed goes unpunished?!
The point that I am making is simply this . . . as social media’s reach and power to influence continues to exponentially grow, situations can get away from you. If and when this happens, what can you do when your world is shaken by a misstep or circumstances that are beyond your control?
In part 2 I will talk about the measures you can take to “fireproof” your brand, as well as what you can do to prevent a spark from becoming an all-consuming wildfire.
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