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One Click Away from Damage or Success


This article was originally published in IPRA’s Frontline Online web site.

The way in which Google-owned social networking site Orkut came under fire in Brazil illustrates that global businesses still have to act with local concerns in mind.
By Angélica Consiglio.  

During the past few years, communication has undergone an unprecedented revolution. The emergence of digital media, particularly social networks, leads companies and individuals to face uncertainty and questions.
 
How to monitor and track the sudden inclusion in social network sites, blogs, online communities, or news portals? How to respond at the same pace to information broadcast via these channels? How to leverage the opportunities created by this new world? How to manage the stunning capacity of consumer broadcasted news generated on the Internet?

So, we all – both companies and individuals – are one click away from glory or defeat; it all depends on how to handle this new media. In this context, the worst decision is ‘going ostrich’, sticking your head in a hole and ignoring that social media exists.

Whoever embraces this attitude is throwing away a great opportunity to advertise the brand. Online advertising campaigns have a 500 times greater impact compared with traditional campaigns, according to a recent survey by IBOPE/Net Ratings.

Avoiding uniformity
Another challenge that seemingly conflicts with this communication globalization state is posed to public relations professionals. It is all about avoiding the homogeneous, uniform handling of communication anywhere in the world.
More than ever, respecting each culture’s specific traits is necessary, particularly now that diversity has become a universal value. This concern may seem untimely in a world that receives identical news and information in real time. But the impact, and how this news and information reaches every community, is different. Key messages should be global, but action should be with local experience.

There are many examples of companies that take longer to figure out the new model, and this negatively affects their local image. Recently, Google has fallen into this trap. The largest global search portal has faced much pressure in Brazil due to the use of Orkut – its social network – by pedophiles.

Brazilian authorities have requested information on the criminals and the creation of tools to prevent their action. At first, the corporate headquarters in Mountain View, CA, took full responsibility for the crisis management and communication strategy efforts. Unaware of the Brazilian market, a corporate spokesperson said that Google would not comply with the Brazilian court’s demands because a U.S.-based company should only submit to American laws.

The arguments that Orkut has a version in Portuguese (the official language of Brazil) and a large number of users in the country were disregarded.

Google under pressure
At first, the issue was restricted to a few communication channels. But later, through the Internet, it gained national and international coverage. The case has disgusted Brazilian online communities, authorities, judges and local media, and, because of that, the pressure on Google increased. The crisis came to an apex when the key local executive was summoned to testify at the inquiry committee established by the Brazilian Congress to investigate pedophile cases.

With the Web, all traditional communications situations can change in minutes and Public Relations professionals face a twofold, interconnected challenge. One of the challenges for organizations is to prepare themselves for the new scenario that anyone can generate information and content and broadcast news to the planet.
The other challenge is to manage the potential effects of this broadcasting on disparate communities. The first step towards this goal is to create direct communication channels with Web users. In addition, to establish an ongoing dialogue, companies should be able to know and identify this audience’s requirements and characteristics.

Smart monitoring, swift reactions
Don’t miss the opportunity to follow everything published and blogged on the Web containing your company’s brand and products. React swiftly to negative news and remember: a satisfied individual influences three other people, and a non satisfied client could influence 3,000 consumers using the Web.

The emergence of new media channels has even changed the very concept of communication. Media relations is still a crucial task for Public Relations experts, but other segments are starting to join. Companies should broaden their activity focus and understand that communication is the relationship with various audiences, including consumers, buyers, authorities, opinion makers, and others.

Marketing is much more than just advertising and Public Relation is much more than clip books alone. It’s about brand and business. Today, many international companies are using the Web for communication with clients and in order to get feedback, suggestions and even complaints.

The most successful companies already know that. Visit
www.thecorporatebloggingbook.com for some examples. Through the web and with blogs, these companies can communicate directly with their audience. So, why not?

This movement to the blogosphere in Brazil and across Latin America is still in its early stages. Where information is located and our work as social communicators will define whether an outcome is good or bad. Success or failure can change, and that change may be just one minute or one click away.
 
The Author's Details
Angélica Consiglio is Principal at PLANIN, an international PR boutique agency based in São Paulo, Brazil. PLANIN is a member of the Worldcom Public Relations Group network of independently owned PR firms.