5 Technologies That Can Prevent PR Nightmares Today's technologies can make corporate snafus go viral in an instant. Fortunately, they can also be used to nip them in the bud.
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Modern businesses are living in dangerous times. With the worldwide prevalence of social media and smartphones, one corporate misstep can become a PR nightmare in a matter of seconds. United Airlines realized that when a video of a passenger being dragged off an overbooked plane went viral, causing the airline's stock to tumble and forcing its CEO, Oscar Munoz, to appear for questioning before Congress.
Of course, United isn't alone. Travis Kalanick, the former CEO of ride-sharing company Uber, was compelled to step down after a seemingly endless series of controversies rocked the world's most valuable private tech company earlier this year. His replacement, Dara Khosrowshahi, now faces an uphill battle in restoring the company's reputation and revitalizing its global expansion efforts.
The news is not all bad -- technology can also mitigate damage from PR disasters and in some cases even prevent these disasters entirely. If you're the leader of a business of any size, here are a few new technologies to keep on your radar.
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Cognitive predictive maintenance platforms
Product recalls can result in enormous financial losses, as well as public backlash. Recalls on cars, food, phones, pharmaceuticals and a variety of other products have left negligent companies in nearly every industry reeling at one time or another.
DataRPM, a Progress company, is working to lend a helping hand here. The company provides cognitive predictive maintenance and industrial Internet of Things solutions that help detect factors that contribute to recalls and work to minimize their impact. Left unchecked, such factors could later snowball into massive issues.
According to Sundeep Sanghavi, DataRPM's co-founder and CEO, most companies are actually pretty adept at spotting big problems in the manufacturing process. The problem is that it's usually too late. "People are great at detecting macro patterns," he says, "but not micro anomalies or anti-patterns -- tiny changes that lead to future defects that go undetected in the quality check process." That's why DataRPM relies on machines to analyze manufacturing assets in the field, ensuring that seemingly minor mechanical defects don't result in major headaches.
Contextual data technology
The airline industry is notorious for creating unhappy customers, thanks to high fares, delayed flights, lost or damaged luggage or some combination of these. Banks, credit unions, restaurants, breweries and electronics companies all tend to get better scores when it comes to customer satisfaction.
Flybits isn't an airliner, but it aims to help companies like United and others improve the experience they offer to customers. The company provides a platform that harnesses the power of proprietary and readily available contextual data to enable companies to take action as soon as a misstep occurs.
CEO Hossein Rahnama wants to help companies add value to the customer experience by solving problems as soon as they appear. "For example," he says, "if a flight is canceled, send a personal notification, provide directions to an airport lounge or a discount at a nearby hotel and list alternative travel options in real time."
With its technology, Flybits is helping companies in retail, financial services, travel and hospitality and other industries to offer customer experiences that are, in essence, more human.
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Employee engagement tools
While Flybits uses technology to humanize the interactions between companies and their customers, a host of other businesses are working to improve the way companies engage with their employees.
For solutions to its well-documented internal culture problem, Uber could perhaps look to another San Francisco-based company. 15Five, founded in 2011 by David Hassell and Nazar Ivaniv, has built an employee engagement platform that allows employees to take peer surveys, regularly check in with direct supports and provide ongoing feedback about company culture. Moreover, employees can use the platform to notify a company's leadership team about persistent problems that may be leading to reduced productivity or a toxic office environment.
Mass communications platforms
When a company is in the midst of a PR crisis, having a unified communications platform is paramount to getting out a singular message. An emergency/mass notification services tool (also known as an emergency mass notification system) allows companies to simultaneously communicate with customers, employees, and stakeholders to ensure safety and prevent the spread of misinformation.
The ability to incorporate existing communications channels is a hallmark of an EMNS, which will also enable communications at an increased scale. Two-way communication allows the recipients to respond as well, so companies are aware when a message is received.
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Social media monitoring
Having a mitigation strategy in place is vital for managing any PR turbulence, but speed is critical as well. To improve response time, a social media monitoring system can alert companies when certain criteria are met -- these could include a spike in conversation volume or inclusion of certain negative words and phrases around your topic. Identifying problems quickly reduces the possibility that they will spin out of control down the road.
No company is perfect. Unfortunately, technology can magnify even the smallest problems and turn them into full-blown crises. Smart leaders, however, will find ways to make new technologies work for them, enabling small problems to be easily overcome -- and large ones prevented.