Once everyone’s favorite social media platform, Facebook is currently facing one of the biggest PR crises in its history, after recently admitting it had known since 2015 that a consulting firm working on the Donald Trump presidential campaign illegally accessed information on more than 50 million of the site’s users.
After revealing the reputation-crushing information, Facebook saw its stock experience the largest decline in more than four years, with the giant losing around $37 billion in value during a single day. The incident got even worse after Republican and Democratic senators called on the Facebook CEO to testify in front of Congress. Recent reports suggest that the Federal Trade Commission are investing whether the company breached decrees of consent.
Is this a mess of Facebook’s own making?
The executives responsible for running Facebook are currently dealing with a great deal of anxiety about how the new information will impact not just the company, but their personal brands. After all, in today’s social and digital environment, it’s not just companies that suffer because of PR crises, but the people working behind the scenes in those firms.
Unfortunately, many experts agree that much of the damage that Facebook is suffering from right now was self-inflicted. After all, the company exhibited some seriously poor judgment when it came to handling the matter, as anyone with minimal experience managing PR crises would have known that the worst decision any company can make is to stay silent about a mistake.
When something goes wrong within any company, the best thing business can do is disclose what it knows about the situation as quickly as possible, then follow up with steps to prevent similar problems from happening again. If Facebook had come clean and then implemented new methods to protect user privacy, it could have resolved problems with its reputation much faster and minimized its financial losses.
Is transparency always the most effective PR strategy?
While there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for PR management, there’s a reason why many companies regard disclosure and transparency to be some of the most important strategies in a crisis. Ultimately, the truth will always come out, particularly in today’s highly-connected digital environment. In America, even some of the most classified government documents seem to leak on a consistent basis.
A company that faces a PR problem can either choose to admit what happened as quickly as possible and hopefully earn some points from customers for being honest. Or, like Facebook chose to do, it can try and cover the issue up and then suffer more in the long-term because of their deceit.
Instead of jumping into action and solving the problem with a dedicated PR team as quickly as possible, Facebook took more than three years to disclose information about the privacy incident, which is what’s effectively led to so much outrage in the long-term. If the company had announced the breach immediately after it became aware of it, the public and lawmakers would still no doubt have had questions to ask, but Facebook might have avoided some of the problems it’s facing today.