Gap teaches us “community” is a reality that needs dealing with

If you follow business news you’ll have witnessed some interesting issues management by Gap of late. Whether you think what happened is right or wrong, there is I think a greater lesson for everyone in business today.

That’s the fact that today a (relatively small) group of customers can make a big noise and derail your plans. If you don’t want that to happen, it’s smart to know you’re your stakeholders are and manage them ahead of crunch time.

Whether you think Gap did the right thing or the wrong thing, what’s undeniable is they got surprised and were forced to do something they didn’t want to do.  Anyone who has done any communications work will know stakeholder support is a good thing to have up your sleeve. And today the term “stakeholder” needs to be extended to cover stakeholders in the digital realm.

Looking at the Gap issue makes for a sorry tale. In a matter of days the company went from introducing a new logo to announcing an on-the-back-foot crowd sourcing project to confirming they’d actually canned the whole think and would return to the original logo. “Ouch” is all I can say.

Presumably a huge amount of time and money went into this project. And the clunky, vacillating response demonstrates – I think – just how stressed and under prepared Gap insiders must have felt under when their Facebook fans started posting criticism.

“They’re telling each other they hate it! Maybe if we let them design it they’ll calm down! Our logo’s too important to hand over to a crowd! What if they pick something awful? Let’s just call the whole thing off.”

While your company might not be about to rebrand, you have probably got other things in the pipeline. Perhaps making sure you’ve got your digital stakeholders covered off might be good idea?