Pastor Dwight Futch, a drug rehab mediator, was accused of sexual crimes in 2010. After turning himself in, he pleaded not guilty, claiming that his accusers, maliciously retaliated against him for getting then kicked out of a program for not following guidelines (Stevens, 2010). After serving three years in prison, 53 year old Futch has since continued his community outreach and pastoral efforts. A hypothetical crisis scenario that Futch can plan for is the information about his past conviction re-surfacing after he has built a large social media community and has become a public figure. Using Futch’s story, I will discuss appropriate proactive social media communication that can be used to strategize brand awareness, reputation building and circumvent a potential crisis situation.
Brand Awareness and reputation building
A brand is one’s reputation. It is what one is known for, how one is experienced by others and bringing who one is to what one does and one does it (WWD, n.d). A brand is also a name that “stands for something in the minds of prospects” (Quast, 2012). Brand awareness is the extent of familiarity of a brand (WBA, n.d) or to what extent one’s brand, or reputation is recognizable. Employing a social media strategy can assist Futch in re-branding his person and increasing his brand awareness.
Social Media Strategies
In researching Futch’s story I found quite a few online news articles that gave him little room for explanation. I also found a page of comments where supporters and non-supporters of Futch voiced their opinions about his case and person. However, I did not find a website where Futch framed his own story. The social media strategy I would recommend for Futch involves:
- Building a social media community.
- Staying aware of what others are saying on social media.
- Taking part in the online conversation by dispelling rumors, mis information and being transparent.
- Being prepared with a statement.
Build a social media community. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube are five of the most popular social media platforms. 72% of American adults use Facebook. Percentages are high with users ranging from 18-65 and older (Duggan, 2015). 28% of American adults use Instagram with most if its users ranging between the age of 18-29, African American and Hispanic (Duggan, 2015).
23% of American adults use Twitter with most of its users under that age of 50 and living in urban areas (Duggan, 2015). 25% of adults use LinkedIn most of which have college degrees and are employed (Duggan, 2015). Last, but not least YouTube reaches 81.2% of American internet users, most of which range between the ages of 18-24 but still attracts a high number of viewers in age 65 and older (Blatterberg, 2014 ). Futchs’ audience most likely would be on Facebook and YouTube, however I would recommend engaging on all five platforms to be accessible to diverse audiences.
Stay aware of the conversation. Information can create a crisis by spreading very quickly, to many people in a very short period of time (ASB, 2009). Consequently, it is very important for brands and organizations to be aware of what others are saying about them online-good and bad. There are sophisticated ways of scanning social media like Radian6 or one could simply search Google, Twitter and other social media platforms.
Take part of the conversation. Once a brand is aware of the conversations about them they are knowledgeable about what to address. In times of crisis, stakeholders who feel like victims often turn to blogging or micro-blogging to express their grievances and share their stories (Coombs & Holladay). A blog can also be a way for Futch to share his feelings and life experiences.
He could also use a personal or organizational website with a designated page to answer rumors, mis-information and offer technical explanations to foreseeable questions others may have about him. For one example, the news media describes Futch as a recovering drug addict (AP_NEWS, 2011). On his dedicated page he could go into detail about how he got into drugs, what type of drugs he abused, during what time of his life, how he recovered and when he decided to use his life lessons to help others. He could include testimonials from other participants from the program that testify to positive experiences with Futch. And provide a link to this designated page on all of his other social media platforms and on sites such as the above mentioned comment page where the conversation is taking place.
Prepared statement. Another very important step in preparing for a potential crisis is preparing a statement. In the case that Futch’s past accusers resurface to harm his reputation after he has built trust with his community a statement will come in handy. In Futchs’ case it could be a general statement that is disseminated on all of his social media platforms informing the public that he has been transparent about his past and where they can find the information he has provided about this issue.
With a strategic social media strategy in place, in the event Futch’s past accusers re-surface to bring attention to his past after he has become a public figure, a social media crisis will be avoided because he has already addressed the issue with transparency online. In this hypothetical situation, Futch has built an online community on various platforms to reach his audience and extend his reach and increase awareness to diverse audiences. He has become aware of the negative and positive things others are saying about him online, and has established trust by adding his transparent voice to the social media conversation to dispel rumors and address mis-information.
AP_NEWS (2011, July 14) Pastor Dwight Futch Accused of Assault Pleads Not Guilty http://www.georgianewsday.com/news/70061-pastor-dwight-futch-accused-of-assault-pleads-not-guilty.html#sthash.PeaUCUPc.dpuf
Aarhus School of Business [ASB] (2009, October 5) Social media and crisis management – Timothy Coombs. [Video File] Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMUPaDBXqlk
Blattberg, E (2014, April 24) The demographics of YouTube, in 5 charts. Digiday.com. Retrieved from http://www.digiday.com/platforms/demographics-youtube-5-charts/
Coombs.T. W., Hollady, S. J (2012) The handbook of crisis communication. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Malden, MA
Duggan, Maeve (2015, August 19) The Demographics of Social Media Users http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/08/19/the-demographics-of-social-media-users/
Stevens, A (2010, January 14) Man accused of sex crimes surrenders. Ajc.com. Retrieved from http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/man-accused-of-sex-crimes-surrenders/nQbgX/
What is Brand Awareness [WBA] (n.d) What is Brand Awareness. Managementstudyguide.com Retrieved from http://www.managementstudyguide.com/brand-awareness.htm
What We Do [WWD] (n.d) Your Personal Brand. Pwc.com Retrieved from http://www.pwc.com/us/en/careers/campus/programs-events/personal-brand.html#overview