Introduction to the Series
Construction is a dangerous profession. Even the most safety-conscious firms are prone to accidents. It’s commonplace to think first of your employees, insurance, and legal ramifications, but how many contractors and equipment firms consider the effect on their construction brands?
This two-part series will discuss the issue of unrelated third parties posting videos of construction jobsite accidents on the Internet and the effect it has on the construction brands involved. Part I will examine the trend, and Part II will provide insight on how you can respond and possibly prevent these incidents.
The Rise of the Smartphone Videographer
A new online trend is impacting construction brands and it’s being driven by the ability of 68 percent of Americans with smartphones to capture raw video on the spot. Third parties, whom happen to be nearby when jobsite accidents occur, are sharing this content on social media or websites without the owner’s consent.
Smartphones have given most of the population the ability to shoot video on the spot and the Internet provides the vehicle for mass distribution. It’s akin to constantly having an investigative reporter from a major newspaper within earshot of your jobsite.
This issue affects not only the construction equipment manufacturers and dealers that distribute the equipment, but also the primes and subcontractors involved in the accident. Below we will explore how each is affected.
Construction Branding, Accidents, and the Control Problem
Formal branding is a strategic process that you initiate and control, but there are aspects outside your realm of influence when it comes to how your brand is perceived. Construction accidents are one example.
Branding, like jobsite accidents, is not entirely within your control. Whether posted as videos online or covered in the news, your brand is vulnerable because both trigger negative publicity and word of mouth.
What’s Fueling the Trend?
It’s not that a building collapsing on an excavator or a 565-foot-long crane boom collapsing in a crowded downtown area have become more captivating. What has changed is the ability for anyone and everyone to capture this footage on the spot, and the desperate plea for attention by Internet peacocks with clickbait headlines.
This is how Merriam-Webster defines clickbait: “online material (such as headlines) designed to make readers want to click on hyperlinks especially when the links lead to content of dubious value or interest.”
Construction accidents make for interesting clickbait to even the public, most of which can’t distinguish between a bulldozer and a backhoe. Don Henley explained this concept in 1982: we love “dirty laundry.” While that accident that caused you major headaches, the general media and individual users see it as a way to attract attention.
Does it Help or Hurt Your Construction Brand? It Depends
The pivotal issue here is whether construction accidents posted on the Internet help or hurt your brand. The obvious response is that it hurts your brand because it portrays a negative event that occurred on your site, but it’s not that simple. It depends.
Contractors and Subcontractors
For the contractors involved, there is no positive effect. If an accident occurs on your jobsite and gets posted on the Internet or hits the media, your brand will have a date with the court of public opinion.
The problem is that headline scanners will often pass judgment without getting all the details. If they see that your firm is involved, they often assume that the contractor is at fault. Even if the subcontractor is at fault, the prime whose name is associated with the project, is the most visible entity so they will catch the lion’s share of the blame.
Construction Equipment Manufacturers and Distributors
For construction equipment manufacturers and distributors, an accident involving your equipment is a double-edged sword. How can there be a positive side, you ask? Stay with me.
The negative side is that a piece of construction equipment bearing your logo has been involved in a catastrophic event. The damage to your brand depends on the facts and whether the receiver gets the full story.
Were there employee or public injuries or fatalities involved? Were any public properties damaged? Was an equipment malfunction the cause of the accident? The worse the situation, the worse the damage to your brand.
The positive side revolves around the durability of your machinery. I watched the following video of a building wall collapsing on an excavator during demolition and two thoughts instantly came to mind:
Is the operator okay? Wow, look at how well that excavator held up. What was your reaction?
The hanging question: was the accident caused by the machine or operator error? The danger here is that our news consumption habits have changed to reading the full story to scanning headlines and often missing critical details. In other words, most readers don’t care enough to get the full story. They’ll make assumptions based on the facts they manage to consume.
The public has no skin in the game. Most will pass judgement based on the headline alone. Those within the construction industry, including your clients, prospects, suppliers, etc., will most likely dig deeper.
A Growing Trend and the Need for Strategy
The trend of posting videos of construction accidents on the Internet is poised to grow in the foreseeable future as smartphones become available to more people around the world. Further exacerbating it is the ability it grants all of us to capture video on the spot.
We have established that accidents have a mostly negative impact on construction brands because of the resulting publicity and word of mouth. As a result, this must be treated as a threat. And every potential threat needs a planned strategy to prevent and respond. Stay with us for Part II of this series, for tips on protecting your construction brand if a jobsite accident video hits the Internet.
Blog graphic photo courtesy of Spencer Pratt/Getty Images.