Food for Thought: Is Your Company Ready for “Techlash”?

March 21, 2019

Technology brands have championed the idea of disruption in all parts of our businesses and lives.

But is there a different kind of disruption coming for the industry?  One marked by diminished reputations and lack of adoration from consumers?

Maybe it is time technology companies take a lesson from an industry that has gone through the battle scars of reputation disruption – food.  After all, much of the tech in our lives has become necessary to live and thrive similar to food’s fundamental role.

For years, the food industry followed a simple mantra – provide consumers with good prices, high-quality products and convenience, and little could go wrong. Consumers would give them a pass or simply weren’t interested in topics such as how animals are slaughtered, or insecticides are applied.

As we now know, consumers do care about those and other issues. And many agriculture and food companies have suffered, in reputation and revenues, by not recognizing the growing demand for transparency early.

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The tech space – while very different in terms of products and culture – is beginning to mirror the food experience. After basking in the glow of innovative, convenient, paradigm-changing products and bottomless profits for two decades, many technology brands are facing unprecedented scrutiny.

This “techlash” groundswell has generated growing consumer and regulatory concerns, demands for transparency and outrage regarding data security leaks and privacy issues. Consumers are insisting on more than bits and bytes, feeds and speeds. Regulators are taking action (or at least asking questions).  And for the first time, once high-flying reputations, stock prices and growth rates are at risk of a serious reversal.

Based on our research and experience, here are three critical areas we’re focusing on that are causing plenty of turmoil in tech:

  • Cultural Disconnections: Companies are increasingly at odds with their own workforce on critical issues. Ketchum can help identify and bridge those gaps, to ensure a company’s objectives are consistent with its actions.
  • Human Disruption: From the cloud to AI, technologies are disrupting every aspect of human life. Consumers and workforces are both intrigued and frightened by the possibilities. Ketchum can identify pain points and help create dialogue-based solutions to alleviate stakeholder concerns.
  • Data Privacy and Stewardship: Data is the new currency, but many consumers are understandably concerned about how their data is being collected, stored, analyzed, and sold. Ketchum can help companies prepare for conversations about data policies and create comprehensive communication plans to help prevent and mitigate crises that arise.

Innovation alone is no longer enough. Product sales aren’t the only measure of success, and companies are not immune to scrutiny and criticism. They need an experienced team of counselors to guide them through the glare of public and media scrutiny, counselors with deep knowledge of the industry and a track record of reputation-shaping / crisis-abating counsel to prepare them for potential problems.

Ketchum_Technology Issues thumbnailTech is at a crossroads. And Ketchum is prepared to help.

Today, Technology at Ketchum, in partnership with our renowned Issues & Crisis experts and guided by our Reputation by Permission philosophy, has launched a new service offering created specifically for technology companies. Our reputation and issues expertise for the technology industry combines our vaunted Issues & Crisis know-how with our vast industry-specific skills, tools and knowledge that can be tailored to the needs of tech companies.

We’re in a unique position to assist them in crisis (or in planning for a potential crisis) because Ketchum understands the unique needs of the industry. As such, we can help firms modernize issues management and reputation strategy for an ever-changing environment.

Let us know how we can help.

Melissa is partner and managing director of technology for Ketchum, specializing in corporate communications, issues management, business-to-business branding, corporate branding and strategic philanthropy/CSR.