Every Friday since the pandemic shut things down last March (here in the U.S.), we’ve highlighted communicators and marketers who at first were trying to figure out which part of the sky just fell on them in My Hot Mess. Then we shifted to those who are crushing the pandemic with Survive & ThriveNow it’s time to get back to business, even if it’s not totally normal. We’re going to do that with an Ask Me Anything series—an elevation of our previous Spin Sucks Question series.

Welcome back to another Ask Me Anything, which is a new series where we talk to our friends, our viewers, and our community. about what they would like to know. The whole point is to stump me. If I don’t know the answer, I will ask one of my smart friends to join me.

Let’s take a look at the mailbag.

Today’s question was not from the community, but something important I want to discuss:

What are the risks to communicators in all of this short squeeze hubbub?

As I answer that, I do something new. I do a bit of multitasking as I answer the questions. This past year of homeschooling on top of running a business and working with clients has been rough. I need more time in the day! So why not get some of my chores done while I help you learn?

I hope you don’t mind…

What Is a Short Squeeze?

About a week ago, my husband said to me, “Have you seen this thing going on with the GameStop stock? It’s insane!”

My husband, a Reddit and Discord aficionado (I really married the largest nerd on earth, I’m coming to learn), was following WallStreetBets when they decided to short squeeze the GameStop stock.

What’s a short squeeze, you ask?

Well, as you’ll see in the video while I try to fold a fitted sheet, I am not a financial expert. But I can tell you this: a short squeeze is a quick path to getting a lot of juice out of a stock. It’s sort of like short selling, but the squeeze comes from both directions—the people “panic buying” and the professional investors trying to stop the buys.

What WallStreetBets has done, though, is create “meme stocks”—a stock in which the interest is as much cultural or social as it is financial—by investing in companies that are either bankrupt (Blockbuster) or are on the chopping block (AMC).

It’s been fascinating to watch because they’ve spent at least four months organizing in places like Reddit and Discord—places you don’t usually monitor for your organization’s mentions—and then came out swinging. By then, it was almost too late to do anything.

The Threat Is for All Organizations—Not Just the Large Ones

It was too late for the hedge funds, some of which have filed for bankruptcy or had to raise more money to cover their losses.

Sure, Gini, I’m sure you’re thinking. This is all interesting to watch, but I don’t work for a hedge fund and my organization hasn’t been affected by this.

Maybe not this time! But if this proves anything, it’s that no one is immune from the people who want to take your brand down.

In this case, the Robin Hood-esque group of bandits thought they were helping—both themselves and the brands they short squeezed. This (so far) has included GameStop, Tootsie Roll, Nokia, and AMC (among others). They were working to bring brands back from the dead.

Cool, right?

Sure, if you’re not in the financial industry it’s cool to watch. But imagine if this were happening in your industry.

And it will if it hasn’t already.

There are alt-right groups, such as Proud Boys and QAnon who create conspiracy theories (children being trafficked in Wayfair cabinets, for instance) against your brand.

There are groups with online agendas that may have altruistic intentions but end up taking down your brand or your industry at the same time, as has happened here.

And there are your run-of-the-mill critics who are just mad because you have wronged them in some way and they’re banding together Twitter followers who may or may not even know your business (a la Pizzagate).

There are lots of us who think, “Oh, this just happens to large brands that everyone knows.”

Based on the crisis work we did last summer, I can decidedly tell you that is not true.

Crisis Readiness Is Now Risk Preparedness

So what to do about it?

This goes far beyond social media monitoring. You need to have a tool that prepares you in September when the groups begin to organize—not in January when they start to make waves.

I liken this to The Corona (as my small child calls it). The U.S. knew about it in December. DECEMBER. But they didn’t start telling the general public until February. By March, as you all know, everything was shut down.

Imagine, if you will, we’d had federal leadership who had the intel to know, if they didn’t do something drastic and severe in December, we would have a pandemic that took more lives than World War 2.

This isn’t a political discussion and I’m not saying that’s what they should have done—even the best armchair QBs couldn’t have predicted this.

But liken it to your organization. If you have intel on something that is brewing for four months, as was the case with the GameStop short squeeze, you would have been ready.

There may not have been anything you could have done to stop it, but you would have prepared all of your crisis materials to stop the bleeding as soon as the cut was made.

This intel comes from more than social media monitoring. It comes from what a client of ours calls “early-warning risk intelligence.” It gives you the early warning you need to be ready for what’s to come.

It’s time for us to go beyond crisis readiness to risk preparedness.

If this short squeeze news has taught us anything, it’s exactly that.

You can wait until it happens to you or you can work toward risk preparedness now.

And if you want to learn how to fold a fitted sheet, I am not your gal (see video). But hey! At least now you know if you fold yourself up into a fitted sheet, that decidedly does not work.

Have a Question For Us?

If you have a question for a future AMA, you can drop it in the comments here or join us in the (free) Spin Sucks Community.

Ask it there, drop ideas for multitasking I can do while answering your questions, engage with your fellow marketers, ad have some fun.

I hope to see you there!

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich