There's an adage about how fast bad news travels that's as old as time immemorial. Unfortunately, bad news on the Web -- true or not -- travels around the globe in an instant.
Most companies seem wholly unprepared to deal with this phenomenon, so every time something happens, they mostly sit back and hope that the ill wind on the Web will just blow over.
But what if a company had at its disposal a group of advocates and alumni who could be called upon to not only mitigate bad news in times of stress, but also promote the interests of the company as a whole?
That's the thinking behind a social-networking service in the cloud from a company called SelectMinds. The basic idea is that the alumni of the company, along with key customers, employees and suppliers, can be brought together to advance the company's agenda in pretty much the same way a university relies on its alumni for assistance.
Just about all the activity on this social-network site would take place behind a firewall, in effect giving companies a "private space" on the Web to ask friends for help in terms of recruiting key personnel or making an introduction to a key potential customer.
But in times of stress, these people also could be called upon to help correct or mitigate impressions left from negative news. There's no point in denying something if it's true. But usually the noise level associated with a news event can be out of all proportion to the event itself. A private social network, anchored by a decent corporate blog, gives a company a place where it can start to rally its allies to create a more effective plan for dealing with these types of events, especially when it comes to social-network sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn.
No company on the planet can catch up with the speed of information on the Web. A story eventually will find an outlet. Just check out any one of thousands of BlankCompanySucks.com sites on the Web. The real question for a company is not how to silence these critics, but rather how better to leverage Web 2.0 technologies to regain control of its reputation.