The gloves are off.

By Stan Steinreich
December 12, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump has wasted no time setting his sights on corporations with whom he disagrees, taking to Twitter to criticize Boeing, Carrier, and now Lockheed Martin.

Like it or not, we are entering a world where our national leader regularly uses social media to rattle the cage of corporate America. And businesses on the receiving end need to know how to respond.

Corporations are woefully unprepared to use social media as a primary communication platform; they are far more comfortable putting time and effort into a well-worded press release. After all, the last thing most corporations want to do is publicly take on a president or Washington for fear of retaliation and retribution. That is why you rarely see anything more than a paragraph-long statement when a company is hit by an OSHA or EPA fine.

But social media is a new frontier. When Trump tweets, millions of followers see it, and then they retweet it. His pithy phrases get echoed through cyberspace within minutes. The media picks up on it, elongating the news cycle and making it a top story of the day. Imagine if he suggests boycotting a company’s products. What if he casts aspersions about an executive’s comments? When his words are charging at you on social media, there won’t be time for long, drawn-out conference calls about next steps.

The corporate response needs to change. Instead of employing balanced language, companies need to be more provocative. No doubt this will go against the grain for corporate executives who fear it will add fuel to the fire. When the tweet says, “cancel the contract with Boeing,” an appropriate response would be, “Mr. President, we honor our agreements…but happy to work with you on a resolution.” When threatening a company who needs to move jobs out of the U.S. would that company be better to respond, “Talk…don’t balk. Mr. President, happy to discuss ways we can stay.”

Related: Why Trump’s Attack on a Union Rep Has People Worried About Free Speech

With Trump as president, corporations are going to have to move with the times and join the social media discussion much more rapidly than they generally have. Trump’s use of social media as a primary source of direct communication is going to raise the prominence of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other platforms to a level we have never seen. Corporations need to prepare, and they need to do so fast!

Stan Steinreich is the president and CEO of Steinreich Communications Group, a global public-relations firm based in New York City.

 

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