April 2, 2018
Facebook has been in hot water ever since the news broke that Cambridge Analytica, a political data consulting firm, harvested private data on over 50 million Facebook users without the users' permission. This is just one of many scandals that Facebook has had to weather recently, including recent criticism over the role it played in the 2016 election. With the #DeleteFacebook movement gaining momentum, and brands such as Tesla and Pep Boys removing their company pages from the platform, Facebook is facing a massive PR nightmare.
Looking at how this scandal has unfurled in the news, Facebook could have avoided several PR blunders to quell the tide of the frustration and anger facing the social media behemoth now. So, as PR professionals, we had to ask ourselves, what should Facebook have done better in this situation?
Here are the three PR takeaways we found from the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal:
- Address the situation quickly – When the Cambridge Analytica story broke, the silence from Facebook’s leadership team was deafening. Sometimes silence can be a good thing in a PR crisis, and Facebook has traditionally been slow to comment on major issues or scandals that involve their company. However, waiting days to share Facebook’s point of view allowed anger to grow among its user base and rumors to run rampant as people speculated on what happened and wanted to know what Facebook was doing about it.
- Apologize – In the initial response that CEO Mark Zuckerberg issued (fittingly, in a Facebook post), there were three very important words missing – “we are sorry.” Understandably, people were not happy that the statement did not include an apology and the comments on the post are ripe with people calling Facebook out for its failure to acknowledge they did something wrong. It was not until Zuckerberg went on CNN that he gave a verbal apology, and then recently the company took out full-page ads in top newspapers like the New York Times to apologize. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late for many.
- Be transparent – Transparency can be a problem for many companies, and Facebook has been notoriously opaque over the years. As the Cambridge Analytica story unraveled, it came to light that Facebook knew about Cambridge Analytica and the misuse of users data since 2015, but kept it unwraps until the story broke publically, making Facebook look worse since they appeared to cover something up for years.
With calls for Facebook to appear before Congress and other countries like Britain launching investigations, this is a story that is sure to continue to dominate the headlines for months to come. It will be interesting to see how this story continues to play out as we are still in the early stages of this PR crisis.
What recommendations would you give Facebook as they battle this PR crisis? Feel free to Tweet us with your thoughts at @AriaMarketing. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and, yes even Facebook, for more insights on the latest PR stories.