Social media use is rampant in today’s society, most notably by President Donald Trump. The Commander-in-Chief has not been shy about expressing his opinions online, even regarding private businesses. In an age where the most powerful man in the world regularly calls The New York Times “failing,” and called out Nordstrom after they dropped his daughter’s clothing line, one top law firm created a guide for companies who may face online attacks.
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton published a how-to on “Responding to a Politician’s Social Media Attack.” The guide says that while political statements against companies — known as “jawboning” — have gone on for decades, the current climate is something different. The firm said that jawboning today is “a serious issue for boards and management at a wide variety of public companies, in a way that it has not been in the recent past.”
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2017
The firm advises companies to have “crisis plans” in case they face a social media attack. The plan includes monitoring social media in the first place, to be aware of any attacks, and then swiftly having the company’s management and board on the same page when deciding how to respond. Before alerting the board, however, companies should evaluate online criticism to see if it has any merit, or if it could do any damage, the guide advises. In cases like President Trump attacking a company, for instance, the board should probably be notified immediately, to determine a course of action. How an attack may affect the company’s financial interests as well as reputation should be considered. Companies should also be prepared for different types of attacks, including ones about executive salaries and hiring practices.
While preparations for communications are essential, the firm says that public responses can be damaging if they drag out an unwanted conversation. Private responses may therefore be preferable. In some cases, though, it may be best to ignore an attack. As the world has seen, President Trump is not one to let a comment slide. “In some circumstances, the best response,” the firm says, “will be no response at all.”
[Image via screengrab]