originally posted on Concept Hub
Everybody’s talking at me.
I don’t hear a word they’re saying,
Only the echoes of my mind.
Corporations and organizations are starting to understand that everybody’s talking publicly, online, which has global reach. Many organizations are implementing blog monitoring tools so that they are alerted when something is said that might affect them. This is a great step forward, but the question that still lingers is when and how to respond when the conversation is about you and not what you would like to hear?
The people who are talking about you are the people who are paying attention to you. This is a good thing. Organizations spend a tremendous amount of money to get people to pay attention to them and then they spend more money to find out what people think about them. The global online conversations that are occurring is providing unfiltered opinions by people who care enough to provide such information.
But how should an organization respond?
If the conversation is positive or if someone is giving you kudos for a report you generated it would be appropriate to send a thank you, perhaps put that person on a contact list to provide them additional information about your organization that may be of interest. It would be wise to nurture that relationship before a competitor swoops in on your territory.
But what if the conversation is not so positive. I know of many organizations whose immediate response is to go on the defense, to send a cease and desist letter, or to attack the blogger. This can only add fuel to the fire, especially if what the blogger is writing about has some validity. Not only will the blogger become offended, but the community will take notice and begin their own research into the situation.
The first step an organization should take when they notice that there is a critique of them is to reflect on what is being said. To stop listening to the ‘echoes in their mind’ and take the opportunity to listen to the feedback of those who are talking at you. It is important to evaluate the intent of the blogger. Are they out to destroy you? If so why? What is their motivation? Or are they simply speaking to you in the only way they know how? Many times consumers feel that their issues are not being resolved because they are not being heard by the right people, so they reach out to the megaphone of the blogosphere. Sometimes bloggers just state something that comes across negative unintentionally and to correct the situation all the organization needs to do is ask what was meant by their statement.
Once you understand the intent behind the conversation, the next decision is how do you respond? The first thing to evaluate is how many similar conversations are going on at the same time? Are they connected, part of the same community? Are they just connected because they each have had a similar experience separate of knowing each other? Or is it just one person venting? By knowing how much the dialog has spread you will be able to provide an appropriately measured response.
When responding, it is important to be accountable. Even if the blogger was way off base in their accusations, if you acknowledge their motivations, you have shown that there was some accountability and that as an organization you are strong enough to recognize your role. When you give respect you in turn earn respect. If the issue is not something that can be corrected immediately, make sure you let the community know what steps are being taken to correct it. If it is a matter of different opinions about how something should be handled, acknowledge the validity of the other’s opinions but clearly state your reasoning.
Don’t deny your relationships or decisions. In this new world of mass information connected by link after link, there is no where to hide. You can change your mind, you can admit when poor decisions were made or you can stand by your decisions.
Michelle Batten often refers to the line from “Clear and Present Danger” where Harrison Ford says
“Listen, if they asked you if he’s your friend,” you should steer into him, say, “No, he’s my best friend.”
Even if your decisions were not the right ones, sometimes it was not because your intentions were wrong, sometimes it is just because your crystal ball was fuzzy. Do not defend yourself if your actions do not require defending.
Again, by listening and engaging with your audience you learn more about their needs and expectations and are able to clarify any misunderstandings. Going on the defense or attacking a blogger only gives them reason to not trust you and to react negatively.