Organisations are quickly realising that investor power is growing in strength and is here to stay. Ensuring stakeholder value and brand sustainability needs enterprise-wide management and the correct technology to communicate timely, accurate information. But investor and stakeholder dissatisfaction is not always vented at annual general meetings (AGMs). The Internet has become a useful and far-reaching tool for the unhappy customer and shareholder. Although an increasing number of organisations are implementing systems to track their corporate and consumer reputation, many are failing to manage them properly.
The Internet offers an unhappy customer, employer or supplier the opportunity to vent his or her spleen to millions, and in turn encourage others to share their similarly miserable experiences. And there are plenty of examples to spur organisations into action. In 1997, disgruntled customer David Felton built a 'rogue' website to convey his unhappiness with US food chain Dunkin' Donuts. Despite advertising four different types of milk, the chain was unable to offer Mr Felton skimmed milk, and when he complained through the appropriate channels his complaint went unanswered. The site, www. dunkindonuts.com, attracted millions ofhits and it was not long before other unhappy customers began posting their complaints. Dunkin' Donuts, furious at the existence of the website and aware of the lasting damage it could cause to its reputation, threatened to sue Mr Felton. But in something of a u-turn, decided to buy the site from him instead. It later adapted the site as its own official corporate website.
Other websites imparting the same level of annoyance and dissatisfaction to an audience of millions include www. mcspotlight and www.yourcompanysucks. Some sites exist to 'leak' sensitive information to the detriment of employees, investors and the consumer. In order to identify the real value of communication a true understanding of stakeholder needs is essential, since traditional PR and marketing are no longer sustainable, as they tend to be defensive or reactive.