Hooters, the restaurant chain that is well known for their busty women-only staff, claims to have had their Facebook page hacked recently when a disgraceful joke about rape was posted to their timeline.
Now it’s quite possible that the account was hacked and I have no insider knowledge on whether or not it actually was. However, as offensive, provocative and questionable content is a regular part of the franchise’s marketing material, my immediate assumption was that claiming their Facebook page was hacked was an easy way out of a very stupid joke. However, I’m not here to argue whether or not the account was truly hacked, or whether they simply had a rogue employee who gave up their access or wanted to play an inappropriate “joke”.
What I would like to point out is something that my colleague Chris Syme, principal of CKSyme Media Group, wrote to me in an email on the subject:
“Savvy brands know how to keep their accounts safe by using coded passwords and
changing them often.”
And this is absolutely the raw truth.
Too many organizations seem to think it’s OK to make a mistake and then claim they were hacked these days. The truth is that not only does it not fool anybody, but when you do this, the jokes on you since doing something like this causes people to mistrust your organization – and in today’s trust economy, no company can afford mistrust.
So when a mistake is made, what should be done instead?
The reality is that nothing beats the truth. Even when you screw up. Having the guts to say “we made a thoughtless/careless/stupid mistake, we’re terribly sorry and it will never come close to happening again” makes you human (I’ll add that in some cases, yes, someone may need to be let go). It makes you honest. It makes you forgivable. Sure you may lose some fans, but hey, you screwed up! However, what you won’t lose is your credibility or your integrity.
Organizations put a lot of pressure on themselves when what they need to realize is that they’re made up of humans, humans make mistakes and the humans behind your brand are what connect you on an emotional level with your stakeholders. Lying to protect yourself is not a habit any organization should get into. The doubt of whether or not you lied alone can put a barrier between you and your most important audiences.
… And P.S. “If hacked means somebody internally gave away your password, then that’s not a hack.” – Chris Syme.
Securing your accounts, data and systems from hackers is your organization’s responsibility
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Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.
Thanks for letting me speak to the issue, Melissa. I really feel like we are now at the place where there is no excuse for being "hacked" anymore on social media. We have sophisticated enough password technology that it is possible to protect your accounts. Anyone who doesn't do it and is legitimately hacked is still guilty of irresponsible behavior. As you say, we have to own up to the consequences. All this "ducking" in the name of "we've been hacked" is getting old enough to be irritating.
Melissa Agnes says
Nicely put, Chris! I completely agree. Keeping one's accounts safe and secure – and worse, their systems (think Target) – is an organization's responsibility today. We're not entering into the age of technology anymore, we're here. It's time to think strategically and prevent these sorts of issues and crises from happening before they do. People's credit card information should be safe, just as Facebook users should be safe from being subject to disgraceful content that is not just offensive but unacceptable.
Fred Kocher says
"When you screw up, own it and grow from it" applies to life in general — especially in this era of texts and tweets that can swirl within a business and within a circle of friends and family.
Melissa Agnes says
It's certainly a good motto to live by, Fred. Thanks for weighing in.
Duncan Matheson says
Good points but I'm not sure I agree that if you get hacked it's your own fault. I'm no techie but it strikes me that this is very much a cat and mouse game with the bad guys figuring out a way to get around your protections and then the good guys fixing it and then the scenario plays out again. So I think it is overly simplistic to suggest if you get hacked it is your own fault. A related point – Melissa, you say you don't know whether the Hooters Facebook was hacked or whether that was just an excuse for an ill-advised post. That's a fair comment but I submit that it doesn't matter. As is almost always the case in crisis communications, and as is the case here, it is the perception of your stakeholders that matters; whether they believe it when you say you were hacked. What really happened is very much secondary. Which plays to what you have preached in the past – work at building a solid reputation BEFORE the shaft hits the fan.