The controversy around the Som Saa chef who was belatedly fired for racist postings on social media has rightly caused a social media stir. What are the implications for the Som Saa brand and what is best practise in these circumstances?
Brand values take a long time and a lot of care to develop but can be destroyed in a matter of minutes. Som Saa has undoubtedly suffered collateral damage to its brand by association with these damaging posts. That damage can be lasting – when people search for the name on social media it will take a lot of effort to ensure that the damning posts don’t appear as the first search engine results. Restoring a reputation is always much harder than creating it in the first place – and that is hard enough in a crowded and competitive market such as a restaurant.
Som Saa should definitely have intervened faster and more emphatically, disassociating itself from both the comments and the perpetrator – this underlines the importance of real time social media monitoring. The delayed sacking of the chef will not have helped as that makes it look like he was only ‘let go’ after the restaurant realised the damage that was being done to its brand. It should also have made it clearer that they in no way condoned his activities or comments and disassociated itself very quickly. Whilst the company’s apology appears heartfelt, it may have been too little too late.
The short term damage is very likely to cause a drop in bookings. Som Saa will have to work hard with tailored marketing initiatives to incentivise its customers to come back and will have to reassure them that this, or anything similar, will never happen again.
All businesses, no matter how small, must have a social media element written into their staff contracts. This policy needs to make it clear what is acceptable and what is not for that employer/business. All business are different but where reputation is at stake, you can’t take risks with your brand. Your policy needs to make it clear that employees have a responsibility to the employer both on and offline. No employee should be saying or doing anything online that they would not do in ‘real life’. The internet is no different to a street corner so if you wouldn’t do it on the street don’t do it online. Hiding behind a ‘nom de plume’ is never an excuse.