The Venom of Crowds
BusinessWeek runs the voodoo down as it relates to how ranting against brands online through blogs and other means has become something business must address. Snippets and recommendations from this must-read article (sub. req’d) include:
“In the beginning, the idea of this new conversation seemed so benign. Radical transparency: the new public-relations nirvana! Companies, employees, and customers engage in a Webified dialectic. Executives gain insight into product development, consumer needs, and strategic opportunities. All the back-and-forth empowers consumers, who previously were relegated to shouting at call-center minions. Venom can be a great leading indicator.”
“Trashing brands online can also be high theater. Rats cruising around a Greenwich Village KFC/Taco Bell on YouTube. MySpacers busting their employers' chops. Faux ads bashing the Chevy Tahoe as a gas-guzzling, global-warming monster. Millions of people watch this stuff—then join in and pile on. Is it any wonder companies lose control of the conversation?”
“When the Web turns against them, executives are faced with the problem of how to manage the blowback. They have two choices: ignore the smaller furies and hope they won't metastasize, or respond outright to the attacks. It's rarely a good idea to lob bombs at the fire-starters. Preemption, engagement, and diplomacy are saner tools.”
To avert a public-relations disaster on the Web, BusinessWeek recommends businesses …
1. ENGAGE CRITICS. "Create a blog so you can strike back quickly. Establish ground rules, and filter nasty, anonymous comments."
2. BE VIGILANT. "Hire a team of media experts to troll for bad news, rumors, and trends. Know what influencers are saying about you at all times."
3. JUMP IN AND OPEN UP. "Address anything that could turn into a bonfire immediately. Replace "no comment" with transparency, candor, and humility."
4. DON'T OVEREACT. "Let tiny spasms of venom go. They'll disappear under the relentless pileup of new information.
5. STAY PROFESSIONAL. Respond to personal attacks for strategic reasons, not psychological ones. Don’t use the Web for therapy.