A PR crisis can have many different results. In the case of an ongoing PR issue, where continual or frequent headlines create consumer doubt, a situation emerges that can be sufficiently described by what Facebook executive Neil Potts, recently called a “trust deficit.”
That’s an apt description for the summation of all the feelings of frustration and doubt and anger that many users are feeling after several years of less-than-stellar PR related to one of the world’s most powerful social media networks. Now, that record is impacting Facebook financially, as several big-name advertisers are, reportedly, leaving the platform over how the company addresses “hate speech” and “misinformation” on its platform.
Hoping to stop the bleeding and change the trend, Potts met on a conference call with roughly 200 Facebook advertisers recently, in his capacity as Facebook’s head of trust and safety. During that call, which was reported on by several media outlets, Potts was asked a very telling question: “Why should (we) risk our brand’s reputation by staying on your platform…”
In his response, Potts acknowledged the “trust deficit” adding that, “You try to make a decision and people disagree and maybe that builds that deficit even deeper…”
In a follow-up call with reporters from CNN, a Facebook spokesman told the news agency, “It’s normal to have conversations with advertisers and discuss issues, including policy matters. This is something we do routinely and will keep doing…”
That’s true, but it doesn’t shift the focus away from the obvious pressing issue of Facebook getting canceled by some huge national and international advertisers, as they have publicly expressed their reasons for canceling their advertising with the company, which very likely will result in some loss of revenue given Facebook’s massive marketing power.
Some are viewing Facebook’s “inaction” on comments made by top political leaders in reference to the ongoing BLM protests as a political statement in and of itself. The company is part of an ongoing congressional investigation into whether or not social media platforms should be considered “publishers” or “tech companies.” According to many, any attempt to censor or censure crosses a line into “publisher” territory.
Critics, however, say Facebook has a responsibility to stem the tide of misinformation, regardless of their legal status, because they are so popular and so many people depend on social media to get their news and supplement their understanding of the world. The decision not to act led to a recent “revolt” by Facebook employees, which the company appeared to publicly welcome.
Potts said the company is working to close that “trust gap” between the company and its advertisers, as well as between the company and employees who do not appreciate the larger decisions being made.