If you want a book that will instil fear and make you think hard about the use of social media, #Brand Vandals: Reputation Wreckers and Building Better Defences by Steve Earl and Stephen Waddington is it. Example: “Media has become a two-way weapon. Nobody can control it. It’s anarchy.” That’s the bad news. The good news? Downing tools and hiding under your pillow is not the answer – as well as showing exactly how badly things can go wrong, authors Earl and Waddington discuss best practice and highlight how crises can in fact be made to work to an organisation’s advantage. The call to action is roll up your sleeves, there is work to be done (and by the way, control? Not an option). They even give you a 90 day battle plan for getting in order.
So spook the horses – give #Brand Vandals to anyone who thinks social media isn’t so much a threat as an opportunity. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn – these aren’t just sales tools. As with anything, you need to prepare for all eventualities and that includes getting a public trashing by the people you’re trying to impress.
A book that’s ideal for communicators who have sweated blood and tears to escape their entrenched ways and achieve the total mind shift that social media has required (me, me!), some of what’s covered may seem obvious for a younger generation that has only ever known the new way of life in which organisations no longer own the conversation around their products and services.
While creating new communities and building niche audiences may be more au fait to some, even those in the nouvelle vague will benefit from a skim read to understand how a strategic approach can place prospects and customers at the heart of a business and ultimately benefit the bottom line. And as Earl and Waddington point out, re-engineering businesses to put social communication at their core requires not just technological but cultural and organisational changes that will take generations to play out.
What I’d say is this: #Brand Vandals is a must read for PRs, MDs, FDs and anyone with any kind of marketing remit. The premise of the book may be that it’s a war between communicators and their audiences however the underlying message is actually more positive than that. Understanding social media engagement means accepting that organisations will have occasional battles on their hands, but that it doesn’t always have to end in reputational damage. You could almost say that reading this is a way to give peace a chance. (That said, I'm still wearing a flak jacket.)