The Internet is hardly new. And blogging has gone way past the early adopter phase to almost mature. Yet, BUSINESS WEEK runs an article in its April 16th issue "Web Attack." The piece by Michelle Conlin, it seems, is supposed to out how the web is being used to harass/harm/heal the Fortune 1000 and how most of those harassed/harmed/healed never saw it coming and don't know what to do about it. Why, I ask, on both counts - is BUSINESS WEEK running this ancient tale and why has corporate America been stuck in denial.
The cliche about BUSINESS WEEK is that if it's in that publication as a trend story, be assured that whole enchilada has peaked and is probably on the way to over. That cliche is a cliche because it usually is true, including with this "Web Attack" article.
Yet once more, BUSINESS WEEK is breathlessly revealing what we all know. And what we all know is that companies have been attacked on the web since the Internet was made available to the public. In the old days the damage was done with little creativity: Just encourage thousands of folks to crash Company X's server with negative email. Then contact the media about this antic and the reason it took place. Currently, harassing/harming/healing usually require much more exotic tactics, ranging from faux ads to YouTube reality material to heavily linked blogging campaigns. So?
And that brings me to my second question: Given that web users have been such busy bees harassing/harming/healing American capitalism, then why are the captains of industry still deer caught in the headlights?
Best practices have been out there a long time for preventing web attacks and managing those which occur. We all know (except maybe the chief executive officers and their trusty public relations teams) that:
- Digital communications ripped off forever the curtain protecting the Wizard of Oz. Accept that. Rich man, poor man, we're all out there. I'm nobody and 100 posters on a mediabistro.com bulletin board hammered me about what they perceived as my flaws. Even though a nobody, I was ready. I had a blog in-place and third parties lined up to move the "conversation" to my own territory. I also knew what laws they were breaking and they soon enough learned about that too. The "conversation" ended. It's been about 18 months and it never started up again, at least not on mediabistro.com.
- Lack of corporate responsibility invites attacks. Therefore, act responsibly. When caught doing otherwise, like Dell and Home Depot were in terms of customer service, 'fess up and do course correction. There's no other way. Hire a monitoring service such as Factiva or Technorati for early warning on what's being claimed about you.
- Realize crises, managed well, are opportunities to open up new lines of communications ("conversations") and change, probably before your competitors and that in itself produces a competitive advantage. Remember what your mother told you over and over: It's not what happens to you, it's how you handle it.
- After the dust settles, turn the material into corporate culture humor. We sure did enjoy seeing Karl Rove do a lousy rendition of rap.
If you want to be up on how the web has or can harass/harm/heal you, get on the web. All the pieces are there. It's up to you to put them together in ways that can protect your interests, prevent you from doing stupid stuff, and preserve and enhance your reputational capital when harassed/harmed/healed.