Monday, August 23, 2010

Brad Lau Saga I

I am reading with great interest the developing Brad Lau saga.  Essentially, a self-proclaimed food blogger dined at a fine restaurant with a group of his friends and then demanded that the meal should be free.  Eventually, fearing a negative review, the restaurant caved in to his demands and reduced the bill from $435 to $159.  Even with the deep discount, Brad Lau was unhappy and was reported to have stormed off.

This is precisely the type of danger I spoke about in my research paper where the low cost and wide reach of social media exposes companies to exploitation by unscrupulous "citizen journalists."

While I cannot be certain how the story broke on STOMP or YahooNews, there is much we can learn on how to effectively manage threats by unscrupulous "citizen journalist."

Firstly, the restaurant was open about the incident and took the information initiative by pushing out their side of the story to "frame" the incident in their favour.  This is important as the responding party faces the additional challenge of disputing the facts of the initial news story.

Secondly, the restaurant effectively garnered third party endorsements to discredit the unscrupulous "citizen journalist."  This shifted the crisis from a "I say, you say" situation where both parties can be seen as correct.  Third party endorsements are credible as they are seen to be offering an independent view of the incident.  As part of a company's crisis communication contingency plans, companies would do well to consistently gather and compile third party endorsements.

Judging from the negative comments by netizens against Brad Lau, it is my assessment that the restaurant's decisive and social media savvy response not only prevented a crisis situation, but provided it with valuable publicity.

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