If an online scandal should occur, companies must have an Internet crisis management protocol in place, with the highest-level executives involved, to confront it. A company may suddenly find itself the subject of collective online anger — such as that shown in the calls for a boycott of French supermarket company Carrefour after protesters in Paris disrupted the torch relay for the Beijing Olympics, or the criticism of Dior because actress Sharon Stone, featured in the company’s advertisements, suggested that “bad karma” from the Chinese government’s crackdown in Tibet might have caused the Sichuan earthquake. When a Web activist campaign like this erupts, it is too late to begin drafting a reactive plan. Whenever negative opinions are voiced, companies must act quickly, never allowing comments to spread unchecked or unaddressed. And, where possible, companies should identify ways of leveraging online opinion that support their strategic development; this will put them in a strong position to mobilize voices in their favor if things go wrong.
- Edward Tse is Booz & Company’s managing partner for Greater China, specializing in definition and implementation of business strategies, organizational effectiveness, and corporate transformation. He has assisted several hundred companies — headquartered both within and outside China — on all aspects of business related to China and its integration with the rest of the world.