Baby Milk Action is a small, but extremely effective campaigning group which, for the last 20 years, has been hounding Nestlé and other baby formula manufacturers over their ‘aggressive marketing’ of formula milk, especially in third world countries. They are a very active member of IBFAN (the International Baby Food Action Network) which includes over 200 citizen groups in over 100 countries worldwide.
Their most recent alert to drop into my inbox reports that ‘Nestlé has been ordered by a Swiss court to pay damages and costs to members of Attac Switzerland (another campaigning group – see below), after infiltrating the group with spies who reported to a former MI6 officer working for Nestlé. Securitas, which ran the spies for Nestlé, has also been ordered to pay the campaigners.’ As they point out, ‘the news comes as trials take place in the UK over the Metropolitan Police infiltrating peaceful campaign groups.’
However, what was possibly even more interesting was an article in Reuters in October last year that they quoted describing Nestlé’s state of the art digital media centre in Vevey in Switzerland, home of their Digital Acceleration Team. The team monitors social media posts and tweets about Nestlé products, world wide, 24 hours a day, ready to interact with both fans and critics, and primed to use social media to limit damage should a negative issue arise. So well honed is the system that, on their world wide map, if a negative issue is emerging in any area of the world that portion of the map will turn red alerting the relevant team to be ready to intervene.
While such eavesdropping on one’s harmless tweets is slightly scary what is much more encouraging is what consultant Bernhard Warner (author of #FAIL: The 50 Greatest Social Media Screw-Ups and How to Avoid Being the Next One) had to say about the effect that social media has had on corporate PR:
“One of the most significant things that has happened in the corporate world in the last 10 years is this idea of being respectful of and monitoring not just what your fans have to say but also your critics. It has completely changed the world of crisis management and reputation management and all the training that goes into it.”
If this means, and it certainly appears to, that the corporate world is increasingly concerned about offending all of us great unwashed out there who might tweet against them – and as a result may become both more socially aware and socially responsible then, surely, that can only be a good thing.
Meanwhile, I do recommend reading the Reuters article – fascinating.
‘ATTAC is an international organization involved in the alter-globalization movement. We oppose neo-liberal globalization and develop social, ecological, and democratic alternatives so as to guarantee fundamental rights for all. Specifically, we fight for the regulation of financial markets, the closure of tax havens, the introduction of global taxes to finance global public goods, the cancellation of the debt of developing countries, fair trade, and the implementation of limits to free trade and capital flows.’