Adding channels to your communication is not as easy as I'm gonna go on TikTok now. Adding channels to your communication is, "Okay, what happens if that gets compromised? What happens when it happens?"
Welcome back to the Zero Hour, brought to you by SafeGuard Cyber. I'm George Kamide.
I'm Ashley Stone.
And today, we're talking executive protection or executive using social media. This has come up a lot this year. In the beginning, before the pandemic, we saw a lot of reports of CEOs ditching social out of security fears, but then, we had the pandemic. We had the murder of George Floyd. We had accountability demands from consumers, asking CEOs where they stood on certain issues. It's just a very interesting push and pull between the business reward and the business risks.
And teams are thinking about it from a communication perspective, how they talk about their values on social, as an executive being a representative of their brand. But also what happens if their account gets hacked? Let's say they don't have a good password or somebody doxes them, what do you do then? Who has the responsibility to protect that account?
And recent news of, executive social media handles for sale on the dark web is also encouraging. We decided of course, to bring in an expert and today's is Lee Caraher, the president and CEO of PR firm at Double Forte, a name that rings true to my heart as a former drummer just means really loud, but, they personally manage the profiles for a lot of C-level people. And she's got a very interesting perspective on both the necessity to be on social, but also what do you do with these platforms where you effectively do not own the data?
We get into a lot. She's really easy to talk to. it was really quite the pleasure. So without further ado, let's turn it over to Lee Caraher.
Lee Caraher, welcome to the Zero Hour. Thank you for coming on the show.
I'm so excited to be here. Thanks for having me.
Yeah. As, Ashley and I had been discussing in the intro. We really wanted to tap into your expertise around, executive protection and executive communications. And we'll dig into that a little bit more.
It's a broad topic, but I think it makes the most sense to start with the larger tension before we get into the details. I think the obvious argument that we hear and I think is also reflected in the market is, it basically boils down to what are the business benefits to executives using social media and whether those outweigh security risks.
And I wanted to bring up some concrete examples. So in February, so this is actually before the pandemic, we'd seen, an article about a PWC global CEO survey that found at least for the UK 48% of C-suite leaders had just cut off social. The risks to them were so great that they were like, I'm not doing it anymore.
Later this year, Deloitte come out with their global marketing trends report,and four or five, were concerned about how brands show up for current events like the pandemic, what were they doing to help?
And also their take on social issues.
And these two concerns tend to be the issues where CEOs are asked to weigh in, make a statement on LinkedIn or Twitter, depending on where they're most prominent. That's a lot of me talking, but I wanted to start there as someone who works with brands, including managing CEO accounts, what is your take on this tug of war?
So I think that, definitely there's some stuff that you're think you're absolutely right. There's a huge tug of war and. Part of it is, generational. And part of it is size based too. So younger CEOs, regardless of the company and the size are much more comfortable in having social media accounts and knowing how to use them.
And, personally and professionally, and sometimes they're melded and sometimes they're not and all that kind of stuff. Older CEOs, and I'm just going to say 50 or older, and, Fortune 500, those kinds of CEOs are less comfortable with it. And if you're publicly traded. Then there's a whole nother set of issues around what's material information, what isn't and all that kind of stuff.
So I think that the tug of war, you have set it up on if you're publicly traded versus if you're privately held, how big are you? And then how old are you? And how comfortable are you with the medium? And I bet when PWC, does their report next February, 2021, then that number will be 98% of CEOs are online and on social media in some way, shape or form.
And how we define social media also is a question, right? So LinkedIn, are we talking about Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest Tik Tok, what are we talking about? And I think that from a corporate perspective, LinkedIn is no longer an option. You must be on LinkedIn. And even if it's a private account and you're not actively looking for networking, it is a way people, customers, and consumers, sometimes they're the same.
Sometimes they're different, right? Are looking, they want to know who the CEO is and they want to know what mostly he, and she, think about things going on and that's really was already changing in business.
Communication was already changing, right? Particularly around activism and activist CEOs. Maybe you could see it mostly in the B Corps.
Where the alignment of values and doing good in the world and what you stand for is part of their [inaudible]. And you have to, part of the thing is to talk about how it's all aligned, right? So they needed as many outlets as possible. And what's the CEO stands for and what the, the lowest man on the totem pole does are all in alignment.
So that group was really starting it. With the pandemic. how many emails did we get "in these unusual and unprecedented times," if I just want to get to that word again, and it became even more important and it wasn't just from the marketing team, it was like, no what does Sally think?
And are they aligned or not? That coupled with, really the election in 2020, never before have we seen CEOs of publicly and privately traded, privately held companies band together to ask the president to basically demand the president do what's good for the economy and the country ever.
And that happened right. And it's only growing more and more CEOs are signing onto that thing. There has been since George Floyd's death, there've been more and more CEO pledges, like what are you doing for diversity? What are you doing to deescalate all this kind of stuff? So those, we have the pandemic, we have George Floyd BLM, and we have the administration and this election all colliding at the same time while there was already a trend to, "what does the CEO think?" Kind of stuff, Add onto that sort of, I don't like the term cancel culture. I like the term alignment culture. Like I'm not going to spend money where my money doesn't align with what I believe in.
That goes all the way to the CEO. All those things together have pushed us like 10 years ahead then when we were, when that PWC, report came out, so the tension is, Oh my God, do I have to do this? Yeah, you do. You do for the economy now. You do for understanding, who's going to align with you and who is not and who's going to buy from you who is not. And the easiest way to do that is through social media, the easiest way to get your message out is social media.
Yeah. It strikes me as an incredible paradox. It's like in normal conditions, that sounds like you're walking into three different buzz saws: politics, social justice and worldwide.
This is actually a wig I have on because this year.
But what you're saying is it's actually the heightened conditions around those very risky events actually force is like a forcing mechanism. That's very interesting. And I think also for publicly traded companies, you have to signal to your shareholders, "this is the side of the line that I'm on."
I think that, frankly, no matter where you sit on the political spectrum, President Trump, how he used Twitter during his, four years has just mandated change from all CEOs, from leaders. Because if you believe if you agree with him, it's wow, he's doing it, I better do it. If you disagree with him. It's and this is really where those CEOs banded together, regardless of their political affiliation, "dude, our economy is tanking, the stock market's going up and down, please concede, cause we can't take it anymore."
The other piece of that is I don't want to be, in this vacuum of the people who were opposed to the current president in this vacuum of leadership, the CEOs have become the moral compass for their companies, for their employees, for their partners, for their customers and their users.
The easiest way to do that. And it's, and the fact that the president is doing it like actively, sometimes a thousand times a day, it feels like versus how president Obama used it. It was much more judicious, right?
It was just a much more normal. This is not normal presidential activity and that has just moved everything forward. So I think all those things together, it was already happening, particularly around the B Corps, particularly around activists, particularly around aligned corporate purpose driven companies, because they couldn't sell anything unless, if you're organic company and met per company, doesn't in that CEO, doesn't talk about the importance of being organic, the people who are really organic, they're not going to buy it. So that stuff was already happening and then we had all these three things happen at the same time. So I don't think it's a choice anymore.
And they can demand accountability. Like your customers can just put you on the spot. "What's your take on this?"
They put you on the spot all the time. And the question becomes like, how do you respond?
The question is not, if you should broadcast right on social media. The question really is, do you engage on social media? There's a big difference, broadcasting, and engaging.
And that actually is the bigger question, frankly, in my, going forward. That will be the bigger question. The question was not to be, what am I going to do? The question is. What am I not going to do on social media and for, I think Jack Dorsey is a great example. He doesn't really engage at all. Right?
He broadcasts: here's our decision. And that's probably where most CEOs are going to land. Not engaging, not liking, they're not going to go in there and retweet and all that. That's not going to be the way to go forward for CEOs or some other C suite level makes sense, but CEOs and CFOs doesn't make sense. The engagement.
And then the communication team takes over the engagement piece. Because it's super important listening. Super important listening. We had a client, who, it's been quite a year. We have several clients whose CEOs were not online and now they're all there in different ways, some are like full on Tik Tok, the whole thing. Others are, "I'm only going to do LinkedIn once a month" kind of thing. But they've all moved, which is great news and, but we had a client who joined the BLM movement, did the black screen thing, And then put into place a program that was going, they doubled down on this and then… this is what they stand for. So every time something big happened, they were going to stand for it. the first time they did it, didn't get paid attention to right?
By the fourth, by the Kenosha, event, which was now I can say that was three months later. Yeah. the trolls had gotten organized, right? So the company puts up a, it wasn't the CEO, it was a company puts up a post on Instagram and it got a lot of negative posts. And I got the call and I'm looking and I'm like, what do we do?
What do we do with take it down? I'm like, no, you don't take it down. You can't take it down. And once you make a stand, you have to know that people who are opposed to your stand will seek you out and trolls, they are organized for this. And so we did research on who was trolling.
None of those people were customers and not one of them were users. They weren't even available where these things were. And we knew they hadn't bought online. We track it down. It's easy to, the thing about it we can do to find stuff. And so it was really, for them, it was a moment where like we're doing the right thing.
Not everybody likes it when you do the right thing .
I think about Nike and Colin Kaepernick or Patagonia and the bear ears monument, they just knew I'm just not going to have this cross-section of customers. This is what we stand for. And this is who we are.
Yeah. And this company came to that conclusion too. But that had never been criticized before. because there was no mechanism for them to be criticized, like to them, to their face. And that's really the thing you have to get used to being criticized. You have to get used to standing in what we believe in.
And, and that's the piece about making the alignment, right? Hiding is not possible. And that a lot of the companies, a lot of CEOs are like, we know we have these nice values, but we really don't live up to them. If you're not living up to your values, you're not going to have a business going forward. And it may take a while to unravel, but we'll see the, we see it. We already see it.
Rapid decrease in particularly in consumer goods companies, when there's so many options, money is different. Financial services is a bit different, but in consumer products, things you put in your body, you put in your mouth, you use every day, they're always an option.
There's not one option for anything. Yeah. And more and more consumers and partners are, want to align with companies that are aligned with their values because it's easier. Yeah. So much easier to do business when you're all aligned. That's a different conversation. In terms of security for the conversation though, it's not a choice.
And the issue is, do you use it to broadcast you use to engage. And then the issue on the hacking. So at Double Forte we manage, I don't know, 20 C-level accounts on LinkedIn and then some Twitter accounts and some Instagram accounts for CEOs and all that kind of stuff. And we monitor it.
It is exhausting. It's exhausting because there is no, it never ends number one and it never takes a break number two, and it's super expensive for companies to do this outside. the bigger, higher profile you have, the more expensive it is. Because you want to make sure, like for instance, on Twitter or on Facebook,e Even on LinkedIn, if you're having, I'm a proponent for comments of being allowed in general.
That's not always true, but in general and bad comments, negative comments that you're not monitoring, like you went to bed and there's somebody around the country around the world is "I don't like how you're using chocolate that was fielded by slave labor." And all of a sudden it's a thousand people saying I'm never going to eat your chocolate again.
It's exhausting. and then the people, the opponents will do anything to take you down and it's happened, right? And we've had accounts crash, accounts hacked.
You have to claim them back. So security won't be... it's not an option anymore. The whole thing is not an option anymore.
You must communicate through social media. How do you secure it? Either manually, like somebody like us or automatically with a product like yours, a service like yours. And this is probably a combination of both because there's important stuff that happens that you want to listen to. You can't discard everything just cause you don't like it.
And some people can't, somebody won't want to discern the difference between trolling and , real feedback, but you want to make sure that your accounts are secure. Like who has access to that? So in my company, we might have five or six, if I have the access, that means for the people have access because no one ever lets me do anything by myself.
No. And you don't hire an agency for one person to do it. You hire an agency so a team of people can do it. It's you know, and if you go in through a back, if you go, and I think George, we talked about this before you go in from a personal Facebook page, through the administration on the backside, come our way around.
And all of a sudden you have all the keys and there goes all the money in your Facebook advertising account. There's just a lot of things to think about.
It's clear, you've made this doing business, the expectation is you're online. You have to worry about the trolls, but you're talking about the security risks as well.
So could you share any examples of attacks that you've seen on executive accounts?
I can't tell you the name of the company. We had a CEO who wasn't very active himself, but had become more active as the terms of a broadcaster and we allowed comments. And, someone associated with him was a bad actor.
And the person that bad actor impacted traced him, traced it all the way back to the CEO and then started a boycott campaign because the bad actor was related to the CEO of this food company. We didn't respond one cause we didn't see it because it happened on a weekend of course. Nothing ever happens, crises never happen 10 o'clock on Monday, Midnight on Saturday night. And he had been so dormant, nothing was happening on this page, just getting likes and shares it was a building campaign. It was going to take at least two years to get there. But then this bad actor thing happened and then.
It was, we didn't, we hadn't made those, keys. It was easy to hack. So all of a sudden the CEO is posting things about, he's dead to me, this kind of stuff. So I'm like, I'm pretty sure didn't say this. I knew that this hadn't happened.
For some, I'm not usually the one who gets alerted, but for some reason I was. In that time period, I'm like, that did not happen. And then we go in and we're like, Ooh. And so we changed everything, made it much tighter.
You can't undo it.
And then the profile of your company, if you're Jamie Dimon. Oh my God.
You could move the stock market.
You could move more than that. Yeah and particularly for smaller companies so Forte works with, we have a couple of public companies, but we in general work with smaller companies because we're a small company ourselves.
But we've have experience with, publicly traded companies, moving the market is serious crap. That is serious stuff. And you should never take for granted that someone doesn't want to tank your stock.
Yeah. Yeah. we've talked with, a Carnegie fellow earlier this year and there are two different scenarios either they pump up the stock and then they dump it or they short it, it's there's any manner.
And I think for the smaller companies, the risks are actually in some ways larger as Jon Bateman, this fellow had pointed out because you only have a federal grip on your market. You're just growing your market. So if it slips, it's much harder to gain back, whereas like a JP Morgan or a Citi, like they have the resources of the world.
And they also have your money. So as long as someone doesn't take it from them. It's a different, like I said earlier, financial services, a little different, and they ha the bigger the resources, the more you have. But even for our company, big companies like a Nike or Patagonia, which it's big brand. I would say Patagonia's a really big brand, right?
The thing about, and I think probably it's more true for Patagonia than it is for Nike. If something out of alignment came out of Patagonia, their devotees would be like "something's wrong."
Yes, for sure. They've built, they built up a body of work, right?
Avid fans who. Where their 20 year old Patagonias with pride. get them fixed, don't buy new, all that kind of stuff. If it happened on Nike, a company that has had a checkered past on some stuff, people might not be as avid about it. So I think, which is where that value thing really comes in alignment, right?
Because if people know who you are, this is the whole point about CEO's being online. If people know who you are, what you stand for, what, how you treat your people, how you know, this is how you make decisions. And, Tony Hsieh is a great example of that. CEO of Zappos who recently died so tragically.
We never wanted to know what he stands for. And he had, sometimes he had these really funny, "we're so sorry, call us, we'll sing to you." Clearly the man, he admitted to having been drunk that night. Of course. I'm going to call him right now I'm telling him, please sing to me because I was so in line with what they did. So that alignment and what's interesting leaders and partners are looking for, they know.
And then, so in some ways that social media use is actually proactive and preventive. So if you built up that body of work, you can fall back on it.
And Tony Hsieh. He was young. He was totally vanguard, multiple, a serial entrepreneur doing things totally their friends, really, just a different kind of guy. Yeah. and if you have that, Patagonia is a great example of that. Zappos is a great example of that. And there are lots of other examples, Ben and Jerry's is a great example of that. When people stand for, when something comes out on social media, that is not aligned, your fans will rise up for you.
And then I guess the other question, especially for these mid-sized companies is sometimes there's an, I don't know if it's an overlap, but there's an accelerant between the CEO's brand equity and the company's. I think of I ever remember her name, the lady from Magnolia.
Oh, yeah. Joanne,
Yes. Yeah. Cause she's got her own presence and values, which is an overlay onto an anything that they get into personally . And I say that because my brother works for a company, which I will not name, but the CEO there also has a strong stake in being like a strong female entrepreneur. That's like her brand, which is an extension of the larger one.
I could name thousands of examples like that, thousands of them. And smaller companies to larger companies. I think, when Meg Whitman was the CEO of eBay, her profile was so large.
And she was one of very few women in her role at the beginning of the .com boom, and in this new thing called a marketplace. All these things. And it was definitely, she was very tied to eBay, which she didn't create. And the founders of eBay were less tied to eBay than she was.
She was there before at least social media took off, but when it did, she had already built up such a media presence that, what came out on social media was aligned with what eBay stood for, and eBay stood for her.
Yeah. And I think the other thing you and I had touched on is also not only the values as it reflects to consumers, there's this race for talent, right? It's not just consumers is people won't work for you.
Will not. And I've written a couple of books on this topic and, no matter what the economy, the top 20% of talent is always in play. Always. We're always looking for the top 20%, no matter how big your company is. A good economy, bad economy, always going to that top 20%. And that top 20% increasingly can choose where they want to work. And now with what's happened this year with the pandemic and people working remotely from all over the place. The freedom to be in one place and work for a company that's headquartered somewhere else has also moved forward at least a decade, right?
The top 20% of talent will not work for someone they don't want to. Even if they're five chains down the line.
And that's right. It's, product against product is one thing, but it's the talent that's going to be the test.
The talent is gonna kill you. It's already - the arms race for talent is, particularly in Silicon Valley is the ping pong table, the laundry service, the nap room, and this is not what people really care about, where really people care about is how are they going to treat me, how are they going to make decisions?
Oh, they treat their customers like that. How do they treat their people then? That is how people are making decisions today. And that is, it's not necessarily not always been true. But it's prevailing today.
That really started with the millennials who are today 25 to 42 or something like that. Because their parents, the boomers and some X-ers got screwed in 2001 and then in 2008. And the whole purposeful life and the why. Simon Sinek talks about the why this is prevailing. Oprah Winfrey has done more to change corporate culture than any other being, right.
Truly, I really believe it, 20 years of. What do you stand for, from television. People want to know what you're gonna do when the shit hits the fan. What do you stand for? Because you're never going to get the top 20, you don't want the people who just show up and plug it. I call them the 4:29ers, 4:30 is the time of their racing at the desk, quick 4:29, right there waiting.
And then don't really have a punch card, but you know what I mean? For 4:29ers are not your top 20%, your top 20% show up early, they care. They're doing 80% of the work, or 80% of the results. And if you're, If you can't get them, go work for somebody else.
Yeah I want to turn back to the crisis communications, because as everyone should know, if they don't know already, you don't plan your crisis communication strategy in the crisis. In our previous conversation, you had mentioned that one pillar of that is a secure line of communication. And I was hoping you could expand on that idea. It just strikes me as very interesting.
Good. In communication, we know a crisis is going to happen, right? And then there's a range of kinds of crises you can control and crises at your own fault and everything in between. And it will happen. There is no company who will not have a crisis. It might happen today, it might happen in 15 years, whatever it is. And, if you have a crisis that I like to say someone says "Lee, it's a crisis."
And I'm like, "Did somebody die?" that's a crisis. But, there are crises that could take your company out and a good example of that would be in the food industry, which is just an easy example. When, there's a food recall because of a e-coli or because of salmonella, things that are preventable. That's another story. But if you're not ready for it, your whole brand could go down and you could lose your supply chain. If you lose the supply chain, you don't have product, it's the whole business thing.
Or the blame is being cast on you for something in the supply chain, right?
Correct. So for instance, we work for a company in the, I don't know if you recall the peanut butter salmonella thing about eight or nine years ago .When there was this dirty peanut plant. And they had salmonella in their peanut butter. And it got into products and our client, who was an organic company, actually sourced peanut butter from there, it was our number one ingredient across their line.
And it didn't that peanut butter didn't come off the organic line. But what they found out was that the organic line wasn't that organic anymore. And so all of the products coming out of this for peanuts out of nine, they have 92 ingredients. That company has 92 ingredients. One ingredient could have taken the whole company down.
So they had a plan. And so the part of the plan is, okay, this thing's happened. You have a protocol who, for each different kind of crisis, is it a personal crisis? Is it a weather?
is it a act of God crisis? Is a sort of food, is it a recall? You chart all these things out and then you chart for each of them we give them a grade of, severity like a Defcon grade, some clients don't like the Def con I'm all about that movie.
So we give them a defcon grade and at a defcon 1, which is the highest, and in defcon five. So then what is the plan? Internal communication? Who needs to know? External customers? All that kind of stuff.
And then who needs to be involved? In that in the company and with external sources. So usually external counsel, risk, security, and communication are also usually internal and external. And then that you should hopefully determine those things before something happens. And then how do you make sure those are secure?
In email, five or six years ago. We would have sometimes not taking things off. Only done things on email and not on text. And today, We could be talking through Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, texting, phone, email, Slack, chat. There's so many things you could be doing.
You set up your Slack channels with lockdown, but that doesn't mean that can't get hacked. That just means it's a little harder to get hacked. And then you determine what things can be and cannot be in which modes of communication. So texting, not okay. Slack, not okay. Email is pretty much the most secure thing you could do today, and some, or, and then usually the lawyer comes in and say, you have to keep all your emails, make sure you put their things on the bottom that these are confidential or, is under, clauses, that kind of stuff. But you have - you want to make sure everybody knows how to communicate, with what mode, and what's not allowed.
So no social media should be allowed. None. And texting, usually, texting to get someone on the phone is okay, but not to text.
But you want to, if you're thinking about this beforehand, "Oh, I'm on Facebook. Oh, hi Joe, listen, we have a problem. Can you come over?" No! But it's happened. It absolutely happens because he's on Facebook or I'm on my phone, I'm on Twitter. I'm like, "Hey dude, call me."
Yeah. It's hard to manage that psychology because the media landscape is so fractured. Also functionality.
What do you own? We put it down to this. What do you own? And what's on someone else's platform.
And if you don't own it and I'll put the email in the, "we own it" category because it can be so secure. There's obviously levels of security and email, but I put the email in what we own. Everything else. You don't know, you don't own the algorithm, you don't own LinkedIn. You don't own Facebook or anything.
You might own your phone, texting though - it's not so great to put things in text because then you can't, you might lose somebody in the string. And then it's really important from a corporate communication perspective that everybody has the same information all the time. In that small pod of who's important.
And that's interesting, you also brought up Slack, just as a side note, what was interesting at the, I guess it was December last year. It's so hard to imagine the world before COVID, but before that when it was the Slack messages that were exposed at Away, the luggage company, that was a misalignment of values and it didn't happen on a public channel so-called it happened internally and people were just angry about being berated. So that's an interesting point.
It was amazing. Like I started Double Forte in 2002 before Twitter. When I started my career, we used to fax. Maybe you remember this thing called the fax, Ashley, you may be too young today, just keeping this to the streams. That's why in social media for companies for a crisis then you figure out where do you need to be? So I need, if I have a large Facebook group, it was a public, or is it a page? Do I have a large Instagram following?
And then you will have no matter what, you're going to have people who come at ya. And the important thing from a communication perspective is to get those people into a private situation, as fast as possible.
And I've also seen the different channels used. So I've seen instances where like a Facebook account has been hacked and they use like Twitter to tell their consumers, we're trying to handle this fire over here. Don't go to Facebook right now.
That's another part of the plan, right? As what happens if something happens on Pinterest, how are we going to get to those people? And you have to wrap people around, not everybody on Pinterest is on Twitter. So adding channels to your communication is not as easy as "I'm going to go on Tik Tok now."
Adding channels to your communication is "Okay, what happens if that gets compromised? What happens to me when something bad happens on Tik Tok . And sometimes the videos crossover to mostly Instagram and Twitter. But then, like parlor and everything else.
It's not as easy as just saying, "Oh, I need to be on Tik Tok or I need to be on Instagram." It's okay, how are we going to make, who are you trying to reach? Where are they? And then if something happens, you need, you want to have the mindset: okay. Again, I don't own this. I don't own this platform. So if I don't own it, what am I going to do if something happens.
And then the easiest way to think about it is like the Instagram algorithms, right? The algorithm changes. And then all these influencers don't make any money. You don't have a say and it's not your business. Instagram is not your business. You have an account.
And so thinking about it from that perspective, what you own and what you don't is also important not only from a messaging perspective but from a security perspective.
Yeah. with all of these different accounts that you have for executives and brands, I'm wondering at what point do people come to you for your services and who's coming to you and asking for support for these executive accounts. Is it the executives? Do they have teams of people saying, okay, we need help managing this?
It depends on the size. It depends on the size of the company and what stage the company's in.
So we work with startups to big companies who've been around for 40 years. So usually it depends on the size, what stage the company is in. If we start with a client, we try to do an, we do an audit and say, what do we got? And, where is the CEO on social media is something we just, we mandated in all of our audits like three or four years ago.
So the people who, you know, you sometimes it's the brand people. Because they're not selling because their CEO's off having conspiracy theories.
We have a few examples of that happening right now in the world. In a repair situation, Uber's an excellent example of this, I just want to use some words.
I can't use what a cluster, the whole thing was. And then on the, fix it, the fix it, program for new CEO, new people, all that kind of stuff. The thing about that situation was they were using social media because Travis had used social media. They didn't have a choice. I don't know. They would, and I'm sorry, blanking on the man's name, but he wasn't very active on social media at, the previous company Expedia, whatever it was before that.
And he had to become active because Travis had been active. Right? It was the norm. So you don't have a choice, right? It's you can't just go dark after someone, your predecessor has been, it was not a choice. So it really depends on the situation. But we work with company, people come to us all the time. Small and medium, that kind of stuff.
Sometimes it's the CEO's office, sometimes it's their office, sometimes it's the marketing office. It all depends on again: "our brand just tanked because literally, our sales just tanked. We haven't done PR we've only been doing social. You've got that, and the CEO did this, and now we need a whole campaign."
Which of course I always say, yep. Now usually it's a company who we might've talked to before, but they're like, Oh, we can't afford PR. And I always like, well. You are first because of, yes, I'm talking about, because you think about all the ways to touch people.
And, I, and, but PR takes a long time and a lot of companies don't want to wait for it. I get it. I take the phone call, right?
I assume when people come to you, they're coming because something's happened or they want some help with some communications to help with the brand, but you've made it clear there's also all of these security risks. I'm wondering how much do they know or think about that when they're coming to you, unless an accounts been taken over and what needs to change?
We're at the beginning of this. I think we're totally at the beginning of understanding. They're worried about getting hacked, but I don't think that it's a checkbox right now.
Yeah, as a growth part of the organization, they're just generally not wired to think about that. It's like the brake and the accelerator and their team accelerators.
And most companies don't have security people, right? Google and YouTube and Roku, those companies have security - full on security people around everything, personnel, facilities, online, everything.
Most companies don't have security. They're counting on their IT guys to lock down and not be able to be hacked. Or they're outsourced.
We've also run into this question of responsibilities, because if it's marketing coming to you, they're considered the owners of social media. But they don't think of themselves as owning the risk or infrastructure.
So there's a lot of confusion generally.
A lot of confusion because for a company like ours, we're come in and go away, lock these things down. And we really haven't had a security product. We've said let's limit the number of people, let's make everything harder to get into. If you have to get into the password document, there's going to be a two-step verification. We've done all these other things, but we haven't said, okay, let's get a security product in here to make sure. Because George until I talked to Lisa, I didn't even know it existed, sorry.
I asked a room full of brand marketers: "What do you do if somebody takes over one of your accounts?"
Yeah, no one asks that question and I got a blank stare. I was like,
"Who has the passwords?" And they were like, I think the agencies do.
I was like, "So the channel that you are running millions of dollars in paid media through - that's in a spreadsheet in an office.
In an agency which probably has interns doing some work on it. Truly. And if you're a company and you have an agency, never have the agency have the only passwords.
We have in our contract, people are like "Lee, your contracts weird." I'm like, yeah, I know. I've been there. Our contract requires them to give us access but we don't own them. And if we purchase things for them, they immediately have to take them over. Because we don't want that. it's just too hard. It's just too hard. And then this is also about ownership, right?
What do you own? A lot more companies are going away from agencies of record, particularly in advertising. Going away from agencies of record where there'd be one firm and moving to project agencies where there might be five firms working with a big company all at the same time using the same channel.
That's right. You could be doing some real world activation through Instagram live, but there's another agency running ads to the Facebook ads manager.
Five or six agencies who have access to because they're working and doing things all the time. They're big companies, they have lots of different, think about a company that has lots of different brands, think about an auto company or like a Procter and Gamble. It's oh my gosh, thousands. You may have five or six different companies, so then sorry, but if you have your five different advertising agencies, then you have your digital firm, then you have your PR firms. Sometimes a PR firm might be aligned with the advertising firm on one product.
So you might have 20 to 40 outside firms having your access, your accounts. And if that's true, maybe not for the CEO but for the other company account, that interns are in there. And I don't mean to disparage interns, but you're talking about someone who may not even be employed yet.
So that's how agencies work. It is a little nutty. That. and I came, I was in-house at Sega of America when, before Sega got out of the hardware business and, I ran customer service too. That's where my mindset of guard your lines comes from because everybody wanted a piece of Sega and Sonic, And people would just, people would come into our building and say,
"Hey, I'm here" like, who are you? So that's my, I have a real-world experience with a really popular brand being in charge of customer service and communication and events and people wackos coming out of the world because it was such a popular, it still is a popular brand.
So my experience comes from that, right? My point of view comes from having to manage that, from a PR perspective. In general, PR people are control freaks. How do we mitigate, losing control? Plan?
Yeah. we're coming up on time here. So I want to wrap up.It's maybe sounds like a banal point, but you've said several times, it's like what you own. And previously, when we were talking, you said you don't own your data and data, management is just not sexy. But also data's the thing that's worth the most.
That's why people are going to hack your account. Because if you imagine the types of conversations that might be in the DMs, between C-level people, there's a lot there.
I say open your newspaper, just go online to a newspaper. Every newspaper in the country right now online or in paper has a story like that right now.
And also in crisis management, you need like a running record of all the things that you're doing. We took this action and then they said this, and then we did that. And just what is the record keeping?
The record keeping is super important, right? Because for any crisis. you're probably working with council and council has a risk aversion of a million.
They're paid to.
And, in PR and and council usually disagree on a lot, except that they're trying to care for their clients, or their companies. You have to be able to prove that you took the right steps and that you involved the right people and ask the right questions at every moment.
And, as soon as you move into crisis, there is nothing you can delete. And this is the biggest mistake people make. Let's delete those emails. Don't delete anything. If you can, if your mother can't read your email, go have a conversation. Seriously, because the liability in any crisis could take you down. So a crisis, again, it's not because you forgot something and "Oh, I gotta get done by Monday."
That's I have a crisis. We get those calls too, but they're not crises. A crisis by definition can take you down. It could hurt you or somebody else. That's a crisis. And if that's the case, if you have a crisis, then someone is interested in making sure that you do the right thing.
In our litigious society, if you do not do the right thing, you should expect a lawsuit. And if you do the right thing, you should expect a lawsuit as we have evidenced in the last 30 days.
I would also say, to your point about food, I worked for, when I was at an agency, one of my, clients was an insurance company, but they did their customer service through Facebook, on the wall and also Facebook messenger. The number of full-time employees that they had to sustain to just record all the conversations. Because it's not like what happened with Susie three months ago when she complained about that policy, you're going to say Oh, let me go subpoena Facebook.
No, you got to capture it because it might go away. You capture, you throw it into a Google doc, and then you keep this thread. You have to capture all this stuff and print it out. That's really what to do today.
It's this weird paradox of these hyper modern channels operating at this massive volume and velocity and full time human beings, screen grabbing stuff and dumping it and trying to analyze like the number of responses in Excel.
And it's that is so manual. What are you doing?
And there are, there are social media monitoring, lots of social media monitoring services, all that kind of stuff, but they don't keep everything.
Right. And the data lives on a server somewhere else you don't own.
So those platforms on their own stuff, Twitter owns its own stuff. Facebook owns its own stuff, but you don't own what's on Facebook, right?
These are great channels to have consumer and customer and partner communication with. They're super important because you need to surround people with where they are.
And, So they're very important. They're not gonna go away as communication channels. But there's gotta be a better way to make sure that those communication channels can be better for when things don't go well, because something's going to go wrong. Period. No matter who you are. Some of this going to go wrong, but that's just the nature of business. That's human nature. And the other part is the 1% of terrible people who will do anything they can to get into that wet, who to expose or to leverage that mistake and that's where the risk is.
Cool. Lee, as you said, we could talk all day.
I don't know if this is useful or not, but I had a good time.
This is a great perspective. We talk so often with the security side but not like the other side that's doing the managing or has the business imperative to do it. So it's a very welcome conversation.
Thank you again for taking the time out of your day and, we will talk again soon I hope.
I hope! So good to see you guys and I really enjoyed the conversation Ashley and George.
Thanks for joining us.