Facebook crisis-management lesson: What not to do

Posted on Posted in News, Press, SUN Press

March 21, 2018 at 01:04PM


This story has been corrected to show that Facebook’s ad program was 2007, not 1997.

NEW YORK (AP) – The crisis-management playbook is pretty simple: Get ahead of the story, update authorities and the public regularly, assume responsibility and take decisive action. Crisis-management experts say Facebook is 0-for-4.

Facebook’s two top executives, CEO Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, have gone radio silent since news broke on Sunday that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica may have used data improperly obtained from roughly 50 million Facebook users to try to sway elections, including the 2016 White House race.

Meanwhile, Facebook users have been leaving the social network or mulling the possibility , and Facebook’s stock is down 9 percent since Friday.

Facebook’s handling of the growing public-relations crisis is remarkable in that one of the world’s biggest companies seems not to be playing by well-established crisis-management rules.

“This will go down as the textbook case study as how not to handle a crisis,” said Scott Galloway, a New York University professor of marketing. “The only thing we know about this and are comfortable predicting is that it’s going to get worse.”

Zuckerberg is likely to speak soon. A person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity said Wednesday that Zuckerberg planned to speak sometime within the next day with a “focus on rebuilding trust.”

It’s likely the delay was due to top brass working out legal aspects of the Cambridge Analytica case. But that doesn’t matter to the public.

“It’s likely they are trying to coordinate a careful response, but each day of silence costs them more losses in terms of public trust,” said Safiya Noble, assistant professor of information studies at the University of Southern California. “This is translating to economic losses too, so the silence is not insignificant.”

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