Before smartphones became an appendage, a construction firm could implement safety best practices, secure the jobsite perimeter to prevent trespassing, and maintain a low profile. Your construction brand was was easier to protect. Those days are gone.
Firms must be proactive in preventing and responding to the damage caused by mobile phone-wielding amateur videographers that threaten the integrity of their construction brands in an ongoing quest to create viral internet content. An imminent construction accident, or the aftermath, will attract them like abandoned buildings attract scrappers.
This article, Part II of the series, will offer advice on how to respond. We will cover how to become aware of offensive content that gets posted online, how to potentially remove it, and develop and enact an effective public relations response.
Monitor Your Construction Brand Online
You should already be monitoring your construction brand online. There are many services, most of which have free options, worth considering. The current leaders of the pack are Google Alerts and Talk Walker Alerts.
Keep alerts set indefinitely for your company name, executives, etc. In the event a construction accident hits the internet, create alerts for the project name, owner, municipality and any others related to the job that could turn up in an internet search.
Maintaining an active social media presence will also help you to monitor the conversation about your construction brand. There are far too many specifics to mention here, but we will cover this topic down the road.
Remove the Offensive Content…If Possible
It’s important to remember that content posted on the internet tends to have legs and a long life, which means that the ramifications for your construction brand can have long-term effects. Not to mention the damage can be irreversible.
The most obvious response when someone publishes your jobsite accident online is to have the offending video removed. The problem is that it isn’t always an option.
Here’s an example. A construction equipment client whose social media presence we manage received a negative comment on GooglePlus by a troll with no connection to the firm. Getting Google to remove content, regardless of its validity, is like getting fake news off the Internet. Facebook isn’t much better.
Your odds are much better if the source is a trade publication or an individual- or company-owned website. A rational person is likely to oblige. Legal action is always an option, but we won’t address that here.
Have a Public Relations Plan
Picture this scenario. It’s Friday afternoon and a local reporter calls to inquire about a video of an accident on your jobsite that she saw on Twitter. You’re already responding internally and in communication with your attorney and insurance agent, but do you have a public relations plan?
Who is your spokesperson? Who is authorized to speak to the press? What is the chain of command? How will you communicate with the press and the public?
A comprehensive plan should contain the answers to these questions. The following are some key elements to consider.
Prepare a Formal Statement
Depending on the severity of the incident, you may need a formal statement. If a crane topples in Center City Philadelphia, for example, expect to be swarmed by reporters. Each incident will require a custom statement, but it would be helpful to have a document that establishes the basic rules of engagement as mentioned above.
Align the Team Around the Message
It can be tough to think about inclusion when things hit the fan, but having your team on the same page with a consistent message is critical. The possibility of one of your people being approached by a reporter or getting a phone call are real. If uninformed, they are more likely to make a statement that could be damaging to your brand.
It goes without saying that your executive and project teams should gather immediately. It would also be helpful to inform the entire company through whatever communication method you prefer, i.e. an impromptu meeting, a prepared e-mail, or phone calls.
Issue a Statement on Your Blog
This is the Digital Age so you should get the word out online. You may still get flooded with phone calls and e-mails, but it’s important to give your prepared statement a home on your website for the press and the public. If you have a social media presence, use those platforms as a means of distribution.
An individual blog post makes the most sense, but you might also consider a news or home page if you have no blog. Before you dismiss the idea of a blog, consider that there are blogs with more readers and influence than some magazines and newspapers.
Nowhere to Hide for Construction Firms
This is a new world for the construction industry. Containing and internally responding to jobsite accidents was possible before the internet. No longer can you avoid the press, remove logos from your equipment, or keep signage off your site to avoid attention.
We now live in a world where everyone with a smartphone is a reporter looking to break news on the internet.
Construction firms can no longer work within a vacuum. You can’t hide from the internet either.
When negative publicity hits the web, it tends to circulate and become entrenched for the long term. The odds of an accident on your jobsite ending up as an online video are low, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it can’t happen to you. Follow the advice laid out in this series to make sure you don’t get branded by accident.
Blog graphic photo courtesy of Spencer Pratt/Getty Images.