It's Not Too Late For Nestle

 

On Friday, I attended the Justmeans’ Social Media and Stakeholder Engagement conference on how Social Media can be used for Social Good. I almost didn’t make it. I thought, Yes, this should be interesting, but how much does corporate responsibility and sustainability matter to the day-to-day of most Interactive Marketers? At the conference, I started getting tweets that called out Nestle on the tone of its Facebook status updates. Fast forward 72 hours, and Nestle is dealing with a PR crisis of Epic Fail proportion, as Facebook “fans” slam its business and environmental practices in the developing world. Yep, it matters.

 

Plenty has been said today about how Nestle failed. But I keep thinking about another question, “Is it too late for Nestle?” And maybe it’s the eternal optimist in me, but I don’t think it is. Nestle still has a chance to shape the tone of the discussion by sharing next steps in social communities. Interestingly, Nestle did respond to the Greenpeace allegations in a March 18 statement on its website, and they told traditional media outlets on Friday that they would remove a questionable supplier from all parts of their (very complex) supply chain by mid-May. But that word isn’t getting out - Clearly, traditional outreach isn’t enough. Bjorn Edlund, former EVP of Communications for Shell, joked at Friday’s conference: “The best way to hide data is to put it on your corporate website.” Case in point.

 

I’d like to see Nestle's interactive marketers team with senior communications execs to use its Facebook page to share this new commitment. When I spoke today with Deb Berman, Managing Director of Justmeans, she expanded on a bevy of tactics the company could use: “They could announce an open webinar on the issue, or create a call-to-action to join the conversation about a solution.”

 

More broadly, Nestle’s alleged transgressions call out a broader point that all marketers must face: Focus on your business practices - not just your social media practices. At Friday’s conference, Robert Nuttall, who until recently ran Marks & Spencer’s corporate sustainability programs, put it best when he said, “You cannot have trust without reasons to believe.” Indeed, brand and corporate authenticity starts at the core.

 

Starting with a focus on the overall business also applies to crisis management: if you’re already talking regularly about ethical sourcing, reducing your carbon footprint, or whatever good public and business works that your firm is undertaking, then the likelihood of this happening to you is less. Deb Berman said it well when she shared with me, “When it comes to engaging stakeholders, transparency across the business would make this a lot easier to react to.”

 

So, Nestle, all eyes are on you. What will it be?