Monday, February 5, 2007

Dealing With WMC (Weapons Of Mass Connection)

Recognition of Why And How Companies Need To Be Prepared For The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

By David Miranda

Consumers (and employees) are armed today with powerful WMCs (weapons of mass connection) - blogs, digital cameras, picture phones, chat rooms, cell phones, and user-and generated-content sites are just a few of many ways that people can utilize to instantly unleash the power of the connected world. The recent examples of the power are many. Here's a couple.

Michael Richards, better known as "Kramer" on the hit TV show, Seinfeld, was caught on a camera phone during a gig at LA's Laugh Factory where, in response to hecklers, he spewed racial epithets like a mad man. (See Kramer video) Almost instantanously, the clip was released on the Internet to millions of consumers. Mr. Richards is in crisis mode to save his career. Sen. George Allen (R-VA) who was not only considered a shoe-in for re-election and a possible Presidential candidate for 2008, was narrowly defeated, in part due, to a video clip, released on YouTube, chronicling his denigration of a competitor's campaign worker called the "macaca" incident. (See George Allen video)

But it's not just those in politics or entertainment that are vulnerable. Companies and brands risk the same exposure. Take a recently-released Bank Of America video of an internal marketing event. Many user-generated-content sites hosted this clip viewed by millions generating thousands of comments, mostly expressing disdain. When the exposure is favorable, all is good; but when it is not, it can be bad, in fact, ugly. Are businesses prepared for the negative implications?

Let's face it. There's nothing new here. Internal stuff has always been fodder for the break room or water cooler and, more often than not, is shared with outside third parties - whether it be for harmless fun or for airing dirty laundry. The difference today is that it happens instantaneously and virally. Sanctioned and unsanctioned internal company events or communications, therefore, should be looked at from the perspective: "How will this play on YouTube?, on blogs? in chat rooms?

Top executives must be prepared for dealing proactively with the world beyond the auspices of the Ivory Tower. New policies must be developed. Awareness must be raised at every level of the company - from the cubicles to the grass roots. Rapid response mechanisms must be devised to determine the appropriate course of action.

Weapons of mass connection: A new caveat emptor for businesses.