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18.04.2018

Zuckerberg, Sandberg, Reputation Iceberg
Author: Heidi Mallace

The only thing I find more infuriating than fake news is old news. Over the past few days, I’ve found myself wondering if I’m the only one in the midst of the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica debacle who realises this story is old news.

In August 2017, the journalist Jamie Bartlett produced a documentary for the BBC called ‘The Secret’s of Silicon Valley’ http://bbc.in/2fsyOLX. Part 2 was called ‘The Persuasion Machine’. Theresa Hong, Trump’s former Digital Content Director, told him that teams of people from Cambridge Analytica and Facebook were sharing an office in San Antonio, Texas. They were working on Trump’s election campaign. “Cambridge Analytica were using data on around 220 million Americans to target potential donors and voters. Armed with their revolutionary insights, adverts were tailored to particular audiences and delivered through social networks.” Bartlett told us.

Hong goes on to tell Bartlett “People from Facebook, YouTube and Google, were working alongside Donald Trump’s digital campaign team.” She goes on to say, “When you’re pumping in millions and millions of dollars into these social platforms you’re going to get white-glove treatment, so they would send people to ensure that all our needs were being met.” Adding, “Without Facebook, we [the Trump team] wouldn’t have won.”

There we have it. The story broke 6 months ago but the noise has only risen this week. So what can we, Zuck’s and Sandy learn from it? 

We’ve been giving our data to the titans of Silicon Valley - for free - for years. We sign-up to all kinds of websites, social media platforms and apps without knowing what they’re going to do with our personal information. Has anyone reading this (excluding the lawyers I know!) ever read the full terms and conditions before they put a tick in that little white box? Nope, me neither.

But here’s what really gets my grumpy reputation advisor goat going. In my opinion, Zuckerberg and Sandberg thought their banks of data, masses of wealth and global recognition could immortalise them from the reputation iceberg which laid ahead. They were wrong.

As Sigmund Freud put it “The mind is like an iceberg. It floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water” Reputations are a bit like icebergs. Hype floats. Real issues go much deeper.

Icebergs also have the potential to sink ships. Reputation crisis can sink company's. Leaders can lose trust, respect and credibility within minutes and hours. The legacies they created in years, are lost in days.

Sitting from my perch in the crow’s nest, life is great. I can see the tip of the iceberg. I’ve been warning people about them for years. But just as Bridget Jones despised smug marrieds, I despise smug advisors. As the saying goes, what will be will be. Just make sure you know a few good sailors.

By Heidi Mallace