Dead lizards and what ever happened to "innocent until proven guilty"?

By Janette Woodhouse
Monday, 14 July, 2014

“Rotting lizard found in baby formula” makes an arresting headline. It has all the features to make it popular - innocent babies, uncaring international food processors, biosecurity threat to the nation …

The story, first posted on a couple of websites, got into mainstream media very quickly. Why not - after all the health and safety of babies was at stake and the story could be verified: a young mother did claim to have found a lizard in a freshly opened can of baby formula.

However, is this claim sufficient to have the product brand and name mentioned throughout the media?

As soon as the brand name was mentioned, the brand was damaged. If it turns out that the dead lizard claim is not true or that the lizard got into the product in the woman’s pantry or whatever, the damage to the brand will not be righted. The media and the general population will not be nearly as interested in the headline “Rotting lizard not found in baby formula” even if the story makes it to the nightly news.

I am not saying that the lizard wasn’t in the baby formula - I am saying that lambasting a brand through social and then mainstream media on a single person’s say-so is very concerning.

How can a company protect against this type of damage to their brand? In truth, they can’t. All you need is a disgruntled employee or a whacko with access to social media and your brand can be severely damaged. All the lawsuits in the world will not repair the damage to the brand.

This whole discussion is not about whether or not there was a lizard in the baby formula - the lizard is irrelevant. The real problem is how the reputation of a brand can be protected when the advent of social media means the brand is instantly guilty and damaged even if it subsequently turns out that the claims against it were made in error.

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