Could Twitter save Barclays?

Today, the chairman of Barclays accepted his company’s reputation had been dragged through the mud as a result of its manipulation of Libor. Now, they’ve pulled their advertising until the storm passes.

Where to from here? Doubtless they will be receiving plenty of advice from the PR ‘reputational rescue’ gurus.

But could a massive, international, corporate brand like Barclays ever face up directly to its detractors on Twitter? Or would it inevitably appear heavy-handed, out of touch and inflexible? Would it be as excruciating as watching your Dad dancing?

Even Femfresh, a far more youthful and and vibrant brand, appeared clumsy when they tried to defend their ‘froo froo’ campaign on Facebook. They relied on  ‘marketing speak’ to make their excuses, rather than searing honesty….”very sorry….looks like we’ve misjudged this….we better get back to the drawing board with this campaign, hadn’t we?”

It would take a massive cultural leap for Barclays to use Twitter effectively to win over the critics. They don’t have the language. Or the attitude. Most brands don’t.

Twitter has been instrumental in telling many brands a few home truths. But by and large those brands have been baffled as to how to best respond. That’s not to say Barclays couldn’t do it, but it requires humility, honesty and everyday language. And deft management once the comments start flying. All qualities that the brand has not yet displayed.

They should actively encourage people to tweet or post along the lines of:

“look people….we realise that things went badly wrong our end…we know that a lot of you are not happy with us… for which we’re genuinely sorry…we messed up…but we want to do things better in the future so here’s your chance to have a go and tell us what you think…be as critical as you like….we won’t be able to do everything  you ask but this time we promise to listen…”

With honest and humility you disarm your abusers. And how refreshing would it be for a bank to behave like that?

  • Bernard Wakefield-Heath

    Very much doubt if Twitter or any other social media approach to ‘fixing’ the situation could have any significant impact on retrieving Barclays shattered corporate reputation. Reputation comes about from what you do, not what you say, and it will take years of trustworthy action to turn around the reputation of Barclays or any of the banks. The time has come for them to entirely change their business plans, structure and culture, and then to act in an honest and transparent manner in all their dealings. Only then may they move some way towards rebuilding trust.

  • David Hodson

    It looks like they listened to you.

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