Over the months I’ve occasionally said one or two negative things about a few companies.
Did I say occasionally? Sorry – I meant constantly.
Their range of responses has been interesting, and piqued the interest of Bullet PR‘s Nicholas O’Flaherty, who used the BNZ series of rants, along with Mauricio’s Slingshot posts as examples, in a speech, of how not to manage online reputation.
Nicholas asked me a few questions for an upcoming article, so I thought I’d cross post the rather long answer to one of them here:
As a blogger do you have any advice for PR practitioners?
Encourage and facilitate clients and their staff to follow, respond to, and join the online conversation.
Someone needs to continuously scan the internet, and put blog posts that matter into those daily press clippings for the top management team to see. The traditional media no longer has a monopoly on sound opinion and commentary, and that unsound stuff can also trip you up. A basic first step is to set up a simple Google news/blog search with their company name, while a few people should be following the major blogs along with other media.
Secondly, respond as quickly as possible to both positive and negative blog posts from reputable or popular blogs. Respond rationally, honestly and credibly. Ferrit (of all companies) responded to several of my negative posts about their troubled times, and the credible person responding was the head of Marketing, Peter Wogan. He joined the conversation, and the result was better for everyone. An exemplary example recently was in Perth where an employee of ISP iiNet responded to my complementary post within an hour or two of the original post – that’s proactive, and they’ll have a loyal customer now. Can we even imagine Telecom or Vodaphone doing this?
Thirdly, join the conversation by blogging, but only do so if you can do it right. Doing it right means the voices are genuine and unrestricted. Genuine voices are those of senior and interesting staff. Unrestricted means that they do the writing themselves with no editing before release. Give guidelines, coach in the right tone for blogging, keep it simple and focused and unleash the talent. The blogoshere’s BS detector is stunningly efficient – so tell the truth and tell it often and well. Xero and Google do this well.
Starting a blog is technically easy, but it does require work on the part of the writer along with continuous reinvention. I encourage individuals and companies to give it a go – experience is the best teacher.
Additionally set client staff free – allow staff to blog about their experiences at their work and about anything that isn’t illegal or unethical to disclose. Trade Me and Fairfax have shown huge tolerance for several bloggers, but we see very little from any of the other major companies online or offline in NZ. Let staff’s negative as well as positive comments come out – and think of it as a continuous survey of staff morale. We do care if staff are unhappy don’t we?
Finally, have fun and be human. Blogging is an engaging medium, and while there are serious and light blogs they all have a conversational and personal tone. But remember – the blogosphere is increasingly influential and read, and what goes up there stays up there forever.