#WheresZuck and the Issue of Trust

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Five days. That’s how long it took for Mark Zuckerberg to respond publicly after the revelation that Facebook data was used by U.K.-based Cambridge Analytica to aid the Trump campaign. During that time, Facebook stock lost more than $30 billion in value and #deleteFacebook swept other social media platforms.

Did he respond as fast as possible, gathering all the facts and developing a plan? Or did he wait too long? I’m always a fan of a fast response in the face of a crisis, but also of a response that is strategic and made with all the facts. So, look at the Facebook timeline:

On Monday Paul Grewal, deputy general counsel at Facebook, made the first comment, saying in an email that the company is taking action to make sure the data harvested has been deleted: “We are in the process of conducting a comprehensive internal and external review as we work to determine the accuracy of the claims that the Facebook data in question still exists,” he said. “That is where our focus lies as we remain committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information.”

Monday’s news read like this CNBC report: “The future of Facebook as an advertising platform was called into question by marketers, lawmakers and privacy activists on Monday after revelations that its data on 50 million users was harvested and used by Donald Trump’s political ad firm in 2016.” A hashtag also appeared: #WheresZuck, a sign that the world was waiting for the founder to speak.

On Tuesday, Facebook went further in a statement: “Mark, Sheryl and their teams are working around the clock to get all the facts and take the appropriate action moving forward, because they understand the seriousness of this issue. The entire company is outraged we were deceived. We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information and will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens.”

Their strategy was clear: to say that they, too, were victims who were violated and they would take strong action. They also promised Mark would speak on Wednesday—by which time #DeleteFacebook was trending, a WhatsApp cofounder had joined the movement and tens of thousands of users had, indeed, deleted Facebook. Plus, governments on both sides of the Atlantic were calling for more regulation.

When Mark finally spoke on Wednesday, putting a long statement on Facebook, he took responsibility and laid out a plan to ensure this doesn’t happen again. But he stopped short of apologizing (which he did later in media interviews).

So, was five days too long to wait for the Facebook response? It seems so. Even if they needed time to gather all the facts and formulate a plan, Zuckerberg could have posted this himself, because it seems his audience only would hear from him, something he should have known. And what was never addressed was why nothing was disclosed about a problem that may have known about since 2015.

Dante Disparte outlines the problem nicely:

The coat of Teflon that usually shields Facebook and its affable leader, Mark Zuckerberg, who has matured into a techno statesman in the public eye, is beginning to wear thin. Facebook now joins a growing number of firms embroiled in a trust deficit with a case of reputation risk whiplash. …Facebook’s eroding market confidence appears to be self-induced by 5 days of silence and lax third-party risk management. Reports of more than 50 million personal records being accessed by Cambridge Analytica… is not only a terrible violation of consumer privacy, it highlights how trust (the new thrift of the modern economy), is hard to earn and easy to lose. (Read more in Disparte’s Wednesday article in Forbes.)

Losing the trust of regulators, business partners and the public—that’s what happens when your response to a crisis is too little, too late.

 

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Wine Country Wildfire Aftermath — Planning for the Next Crisis

The true cost of the wildfires that ravaged Napa and Sonoma wine country last fall was in human lives and lost homes, but for the hundreds of wineries in these counties, questions remain. Did the wineries and the industry handle the crisis well? What could they have done better? What do they need to do in the future?

These were questions posed by Alf Nucifora, chairman of the Luxury Marketing Council of San Francisco to me and my fellow panelists at the council’s 2018 Winery Boot Camp on Feb. 28 at Lincoln Theater, Yountville, Calif. The answer from panelists to the 300 winery representatives in attendance was clear — prepare for the unthinkable. Specifically, every winery, big and small, needs a crisis management plan.

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photo by Art & Clarity

Joining me on stage were Jen Locke, SVP-Direct to Consumer of Treasury Wine Estates, Leigh Oshirak, consultant and former SVP Brand Marketing, PR, Social Media, Williams-Sonoma, Inc., Lisa Poppen, VP, Marketing & Communications, Visit Napa Valley, and Eric Savitz, partner, Brunswick Group.

Together we spelled out what these plans should look like: evaluating and planning for all risks (beyond wildfires), breaking down contact information with phone trees and back-up contacts, utilizing internal and external resources — from county emergency responders to insurance companies and public relations experts — and spelling out roles and responsibilities clearly. Even the smallest winery can and should have a plan, and those plans should be shared with everyone who needs to have them, practiced and updated each year.

Beyond crisis planning, the discussion turned to why the industry, which is represented by several tourism and winery trade associations, needs to respond quickly in these circumstances with a unified voice. While the industry lost significant revenues in the first months of the fires, occupancy numbers have recovered. Visit Napa Valley and others have pounded the message — “We are open for business.”

But it will take some months to fully know what the long-term impact will be. Reports indicate most vineyards survived unscathed. Out of nearly 500 wineries in Napa Valley, fewer than a dozen were destroyed or saw significant damage. However, the truth is we don’t know how consumer behavior will be affected by the images spread through media and social media during the height of the fires.

The crucial months for Northern California wineries are before them now, and I urged those in attendance to communicate with their audiences, using video and other media, to show them exactly what their wineries look like and answer questions on their guest’s minds before they’re asked. The wineries should also be reaching out to the media now and using social media to spread their word.

The strong reputations built by Napa and Sonoma wineries over many years should be strong allies as they approach this season. Those reputations should be paramount as they face any short-term obstacles, however painful they may be. If the wineries communicate effectively, stay open and honest about any impact on their vines or grapes, and pull together as an industry, their reputation will carry them.

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