While this is a blog ostensibly about marketing, I couldn't let the 2016 NFL draft go by without discussing some social media lessons to be learned from Laremy Tunsil's giant flameout over a supposed social media hack. For the uninitiated among you, here's brief rundown:
Tunsil is an offensive tackle who played his college ball at Ole Miss. He was projected as high as the the number one overall pick in the draft and a lock to fall somewhere in the top five. Tunsil demonstrated the skills and size that had everybody in the league drooling over the possibility of his services.
Fast forward to mere hours before the first round of the draft and, suddenly, a video appears on Tunsil's social media feeds that allegedly shows him smoking marijuana. Also showing up on his feeds are screen shots of text messages that purport to show him asking a member of the Ole Miss coaching staff for money. It doesn't take a player personnel expert to know this isn't a good thing. Tunsil plummets down the draft board until the Miami Dolphins pick him up at #13.
Tunsil claims that his accounts were hacked and that someone unknown to him posted the video and screenshots. Regardless of whether he was hacked or not -- and I happen to think that he actually was hacked because I'd like to think he's not stupid enough to submarine himself and the opportunity to make millions of additional dollars -- the damage was done and it was serious.
During the evening, Tunsil admitted it was him in the video but claimed it was "old." He also admitted taking money from a coach at Ole Miss, which likely will land the school in hot water with the NCAA. The fallout is far from over at the time of this writing.
With all this said, what does this have to do with marketing? In short, EVERYTHING. What lessons can brands learn from Laremy Tunsil? SEVERAL. To wit:
Protect the brand
At all costs, try and protect your brand. I'm not inferring cover-ups or lies with this, just make sure that you don't put yourself in a position to have to answer inquiries about questionable activities. Make sure you know what's being said about you and/or your company and try to stay ahead of things.
Honesty is the best policy
At least Tunsil was able to be honest about these issues. Unfortunately, I don't think he was terribly prepared for the onslaught and didn't handle it in the best way possible. Brands should not only take an appropriate amount of time to prepare their response, but also deliver that response in a manner that seems expedient. It's a fine line to walk, but an important one to get right.
The worst thing that can happen to a brand is to give off the impression that a cover up or dishonesty is afoot. If you can't deliver the complete story, at least deliver what you have and make it clear that your investigation into the matter remains underway. Being transparent is the best policy, especially in a crisis management situation.
Have a game plan
Even the best of us can't envision every single scenario that might befall our brand. However, what you CAN and SHOULD do, is have a plan in place to help you deal with a crisis management situation. Your plan should include a key leadership team that will be looped in during the investigation phase, a spokesperson, a capable team of marketing folks that can help craft an appropriate response to the situation, and a media relations manager that can help deal with the crush of unwanted media attention. In the case of this company and many of yours, that team may be one or two people. It doesn't mean you shouldn't have a plan to respond in place.
Security, security, security
This should be the biggest no-brainer of all. Conduct a security review of all your social media accounts. Find out who has access to your accounts, where usernames and passwords are stored, and have a plan in place to make regular changes to those accounts.
Many password management services will help create random passwords for these accounts and will help you change them with very little hassle. The easiest security check you can do is the regular password change.
Another important piece of the security puzzle is to revoke access to any ex-employees or contractors. Sounds simple enough, but the fact of the matter is that these issues slip through the cracks on a regular basis and all of a sudden you have a disgruntled person with access to your Facebook account. Don't let this happen to you!
Don't get sacked
I know we all have the right ideas when it comes to crisis management and security issues, but we often let our guard down for a moment. That exact moment is when the worst possible scenario presents itself.
I hope for Laremy Tunsil's sake that he learns a valuable lesson from this episode and takes the appropriate steps to ensure it doesn't happen again. I also hope that I learned some things from this scenario and create a better plan to deal with an unfortunate situation.
Weigh in below in the comments and let me know what you think. I'd love to have this conversation because we can all learn and grow from it.