The impact of #brandvandals on communication

Thanks to the rise of social media, what audiences think and say about organisations has never been more critical. Are you ready to tackle the brand vandals?

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of reading a preview copy of a brand new book that is hitting the shelves at the end of October, #brandvandals. Or to give it its full title: #Brandvandals: Reputation Wreckers and How to Build Better Defences: Corporate Reputation Risk and Response – yes a title with a hashtag. Nifty huh?

bookIf you’re anything like me, I’m sure you always have more than one book on the go and a list as long as your arm of ones you want to read. However, this weekend was a first for me – the book is soon to be available in hardcopy, but I read it via my iPad.

I know many people read via E-readers, Kindles etc and have done for years, but this was my first time and I liked it. I’m not convinced I’m going to switch completely, as I do love having paper in my hands, but as the only book I’ve read this way, there couldn’t have been a better choice, particularly given the subject matter.

The book is in two parts, the first half is written by Stephen Waddington and examines the damage that Internet-empowered individuals can cause organisations. The second half is written by Steve Earl and proposes some answers for the future of organisational communications.

Brand anarchy

#Brandvandals is the follow-up to Steve Earl and Stephen Waddington’s Brand Anarchy (Bloomsbury, 2012), which examined the impact of media change and the new reputation landscape brought about by disaffected shareholders, customers and employees voicing their opinions to a global Internet audience. (In answer to a question I received last week – the reason I always put the publisher and year in brackets is because a lot of Comms students read my blog and it allows them to track down the original source for their references).

Through #brandvandals, the authors continue the story, with the brand vandals going one step further; mobilising themselves, and the Internet, to wage war on organisations and wilfully cause lasting reputational damage. It sounds like fiction doesn’t it? Unfortunately not.

It’s packed with examples and interviews and left me shaking my head in disbelief at some of the tactics that are used to skew conversations and shift focus. I enjoyed reading the perspectives of lots of names I recognise, and some of the detail behind the biggest acts of brand vandalism in recent times.

You don’t have to have read the first book for the second one to be relevant, but having read both, I recommend having the set on your bookshelf.

The book states: “For the organisation, engagement isn’t an option – it’s a necessity. Brand vandals are forcing a level of dialogue that organisations, public and private, have never had to contemplate before. Smart organisations are helping to define the future of modern brand communication by retooling their public relations and communications teams to truly get to grips with the challenge of engaging audiences in a 24/7 conversation that not only answers criticism, but positively rebuilds corporate reputation.”

Is your organisation ready for the brand vandals?

brand vandals#brandvandals is a veritable romp through the world of communication, public relations and everything else in between and around it, and makes for a thrilling read.

One of my favourite parts of the book was the story of nine-year-old Martha Payne who shamed a Scottish council in 2012 using her blog called NeverSeconds.

She notched up 4.5 million hits and raised lots of money for charity Mary’s Meals in the process – all while critiquing her school meals. Remember that story? I like the fact it was included in #brandvandals.

I read the book in one sitting as I literally couldn’t put it down. Being transparent, I know Stephen Waddington @wadds, well and am proud to feature in one of the chapters as he interviewed me about corporate reputation and transparency – so it’s only right that I tell you that!

What can you expect from the book?

The style is no-nonsense, plain English, jargon-free and enticing. It’s gritty and raw and a reflection of the world we are operating in and the reality of the types of conversations that take place about our brands, employees and organisations.

It has some choice quotes in there and made me laugh out loud on a couple of occasions at the cheekiness of some of the language.

The chapters and comments are not sugar-coated. This is not a saccharine-sweet business book, it’s the truth – people do say exactly what they think and direct their feelings towards organisations. So it makes sense for the book to be written this way and for companies to react, respond and plan accordingly based on the reality of their worlds.

I like the fact there’s a 90 day plan in there to get your brand ready to tackle the vandals. This isn’t about outsmarting every move and trick in the book when it comes to people willingly creating waves, but about “keeping your reputational shield polished, so mud is harder to stick.”

There were so many standout quotes in the book for me, such as:

Who are brand vandals? They aren’t just members of your external audience. Sometimes they’re employees, and a lack of robust processes in an organisation can endanger it.


There is nowhere to hide for businesses that are anything less than transparent internally or externally.

As I was reading through I found myself making notes around the parts that I thought were most relevant or thought-provoking for internal comms pros. Rather than just keep them on my iPad, I thought I’d share them with you.

I mulled over the best way of doing it, and in the end decided to create a short deck of quotes via SlideShare. This doesn’t mean you don’t have to read the book, but hopefully it will give you a taster of the type of content in there and why I think it’s relevant for internal communication professionals to read. You can see them below.

*And no, I haven’t included any of the quotes from my section, but hopefully goes without saying there is a lot of info in there for IC pros 🙂

Want to read more? There’s a free sample chapter here to whet your appetite.

#brandvandals can be pre-ordered. It is available via Amazon and Bloomsbury’s website in paperback and as an ebook.

My congratulations to Stephen and Steve for yet another robust read to add to communicators’ bookshelves. This is a book I will be re-reading and referencing, and I thoroughly recommend checking it out for yourself.


P.s. Thank you to everyone who has completed my survey into how internal comms pros use social media so far. It’s open until 31 October and the final question is your chance to let me know what you want to read about via my blog. Do please take a few moments to have your say, thank you.

Here are the quotes as promised:

Post author: Rachel Miller

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