August 20, 2009
/ by Brandon Andersen
Brandon Andersen is the Interactive Marketing Manager for Cision US.
Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey, most likely didn’t intend to alienate his company’s customer base when he wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal a week ago. But when he implied that Obama’s health care reform might “move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system”, the liberal-leaning Whole Foods customer base took exception and put Whole Foods in an unsavory PR position.
Offended Whole Foods customers immediately took action. A Whole Foods boycott group was formed on Facebook shortly after the article was published and now has over 20,000 fans. Twitter and blogs and other social media sites exploded with news of the boycott and customer’s disdain for Mackey’s political opinion. Whole Foods even started a forum discussion on their website where over 14,000 posts have been made about the PR debacle, and the company has been trying to distance itself from its own CEO by sending apologetic e-mails to customers saying, “John’s intent was to express his personal opinions — not those of Whole Food Market.”
John Mackey was not speaking on behalf of Whole Foods when he wrote his op-ed column, but that didn’t matter; being the CEO of the company means that he’s ALWAYS speaking on behalf of the company.
But you don’t have to be a CEO or write an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal to tarnish your company’s reputation. What you say on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social networks has a direct impact on how you and your company are viewed. PR professionals no longer hold the sole key to what is said on behalf of a brand or company. Now everyone has been given a key, but many have no idea how powerful that key is – even CEOs.
Do your part by realizing that what you say has a direct affect on you and your company, and think twice before saying it publicly if it could be misconstrued. Just remember that posting a comment in social media is equivalent to e-mailing it to everyone you know. And if it contains content about your brand, you’re including your customers and prospective customers in that e-mail.
How do you feel about having our personal lives being tied so closely to our professional lives?
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