Originally appearing in The SHIELD™ - Volume 04 - Fall 2006
Part 1 of a 3-part series - Corporate tips to build brand and avoid disaster in the conversational era.
Corporate success in the conversational era
Blogging is here to stay.
For those of us who’ve barely mastered emails and surfing the Net,
it’s a rude awakening. Blogging is the practice of running a “web log”
where people from all over the world can chat with each other about
Web experts call this the conversational era, and like any other new
era, it comes with its own set of rules and expectations. Companies who
hope to remain competitive and aware need to find ways to incorporate
blogging into their corporate strategies. Why? Because people are talking
about them – and where people talk, anything can happen.
Some companies have tried the ostrich approach. Stick one’s head
in the sand, and one doesn’t have to see the corporate damage being
done on blogs and message boards. The results have almost always been
Reacting without careful thought or strategy can be equally devastat-
ing. Corporations, like people, need to detach themselves emotionally
before rushing in to defend their company’s reputation.This can be hard
when all the rule books are outdated and no longer apply.
People these days recognize sincerity. As customers, their choices are
endless. They will gravitate toward companies who show they are pas-
sionate about their work and respectful of the people who make their
A positive blog presence, as this series of articles will show, can trans-
late into effective brand strategies, which include rebuilding old brands
and introducing new ones. But when it comes to blogging, flash and
dazzle won’t work. Honest conversation will.
The following tips will help you engage effectively with online con-
versations. Some of these suggestions, because corporations have been
conditioned otherwise, may feel counter-productive. But the web-based
evidence is overwhelming. These approaches work.
1. Listen. Most companies make the mistake of avoiding or mini-
mizing issues brought up by dissatisfied customers. The blogging com-
munity will see right through this and won’t put up with it. They will
eventually drive a stake through even the finest company’s heart.
2. Respond in a timely, concise and focused manner. Bring-
ing on an arsenal of PR and legal advisors isn’t always necessary or ad-
visable. Talk in a way that people will understand. Keep the language
and concepts simple.
3. Admit when you are wrong. This is often what the audience
wants. What makes blogs unique is their ability to self-regulate.
You won’t be able to win over everyone, but some will feel your pas-
sion and hear what you’re saying. These people will become your allies,
and they will turn the tide in your favour.
4. Accept the repercussions of your actions. Companies who
admit wrongdoing are often rewarded because they were truthful and
willing to accept the consequences of their actions. Their rewards are au-
dience trust and greater customer loyalty. The trick is, stay with the top-
ics at hand. When you’ve successfully won over your audience, DON’T
make the mistake that our final tip warns you about.
5. Talk, don’t sell. Blogs were founded on an anti-pitch sentiment.
Defy this truth, and expect to be burned. Businesses often try with well-
intended eagerness to promote their product on blogs, citing low costs
and other accessibility features. Bloggers’ first loyalty, however, is to the blogging community. Companies who’ve never been the target of nega-
tive conversation suddenly find themselves attacked for lack of obedi-
ence to the anti-pitch rule (also known as “splogging”). Winning over an
angry audience for “selling out of place” can take years.
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Below are some links to product or company mentions in mainstream media:
Protecting the firm’s name on the web | Law Times
Safeguard Your Brand Reputation Online | Inc. Technology
They’ve got their eyes on you—are your ears burning? | ComputerWorld Canada
Blog author threatens to go "on a killing spree" | CNW Group
Blog author threatens to go "on a killing spree" | PR Newswire
Tips on Safeguarding Your Online Reputation | WSJ Startup Journal