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Community Building and User Generated Content Forum

Corporate Blogs, Personal Opinions, and Bad PR

 8:12 pm on Jul 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

The recent flap after a Google Health market employee made a blog post encouraging health care firms to offset negative PR from the movie Sicko is just one example of the fine line between open communication and getting hammered by those who disagree with you. Here's one article on the subject: Google employee's personal blog entry spurs debate [newspress.com].

I've found some business clients reluctant to engage the greater Web community via blogs, forums, etc. for just this reason. Everything is fine until an employee says something problematic or customers start criticizing the firm or its products. Then, transparency and community don't sound quite as attractive.

Personally, I don't think we can put this genie back in the bottle. A company that fails to communicate openly and informally will eventually be perceived as a corporate dinosaur. What should firms do to maximize Web 2.0 benefits while minimizing negative publicity?



 8:24 pm on Jul 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

My opinion on that kind of blog post? Thanks for the link!


 9:47 pm on Jul 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

One solution is for company bloggers to select a panel of around 4 of their peers, one of whom could review their blog entries before publishing.


 10:12 pm on Jul 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

I find blogs that haven't passed through the lawyer, public relations, and advertising department for approval refreshing for all there non political correctness. For example the Jet Blue blog has just been "taken over" by Mr. Burns of the Simpsons (yes I am serious).


 11:25 pm on Jul 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

Is Matt Cutts" Blog extensively vetted?


 11:30 pm on Jul 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think common sense will suffice in most cases. A recommendation to counter a documentary film (however biased) is probably something not best put forward in a public blog. Either private communications or a general "Using AdWords to Counteract Negative PR" would have been fine. "Using AdWords to Strike Back at Michael Moore" (no, that's not the actual post title) is bound to be controversial.

When a corporate blogger isn't sure, then a quick consult with the boss or with legal should clear things up.

I think it's possible to be frank, unfiltered, and open, yet still avoid major PR miscues.


 1:07 am on Jul 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

The Health service sucks in the USA.... I'm sure all Google employees have great health insurance, thanks to their giant company politics.

What about the rest of our wonderful country? We don't get that treatment so nobody from Google should ever blog about these issues when they are backed by corporate giants. Googles blog by Matt Cutts... Come on people?


 1:44 am on Jul 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

Apparently this health care blog entry had been internally vetted by Google - and they green-lighted it.

Google's official response [googleblog.blogspot.com]
Our internal review of the piece before publication failed to recognize that readers would -- properly, but incorrectly -- impute the criticisms as reflecting Google's official position. We blew it.

Frankly I don't see what the big deal is. Someone is trying to drum up business by leveraging current events. If people want to spend money because of it, fine. If they don't, who cares?

From my perspective it's a good thing that google is finally trying to pull in health care ad dollars again - it's a huge market that they seem to have lost because of poor quality sites. Fix the quality problem (we'll see if their recent policy changes did that) then pull in the advertisers. At least everyone now knows google does healthcare advertising!


 2:13 am on Jul 6, 2007 (gmt 0)


Speak what you want as the Google bloggers and the rest... If there is a link to how healthcare works great in the USA then I sure wish I could of found it off the Google blog about a movie that is one sided... Or anywhere!


 5:44 am on Jul 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

don't compare google with the "rest of us." Googlers are getting health care because THEY in a way pay for it /earn the money so Google can afford it.

One doen't just "get it"....someone has to pay for it.


 5:59 am on Jul 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

With all the cash Google pulls in and the benefits the employees probably get, its not to hard to see why any statement from them that would appear to encourage companies to use Google [or any other medium] to spin PR to coverup the faults of the US heathcare system would set off a firestorm from those who have had less than stellar experiences in the healthcare system.

It's going to be seen as even more health care dollars that are not going to supply heath care services.


 11:58 am on Jul 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

Health care firms are indeed in a touchy area - many people don't want them to act like any other business. If Google did vet the post prior to it being published, then it's a double goof. I can understand it, though - when you are immersed in an area, you don't always think the same way people with a totally different perspective do. (E.g., a fashion designer introduces a new line of belts, and PETA comes out of left field to complain about killing cows - it's not something that would have crossed the designer's mind.)


 2:42 pm on Jul 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

webastronaut - sorry, I'm not sure what you meant.

I certainly did not mean to imply that the healthcare system in the US is exquisite - I'm probably less enamored with it than most. Big changes will be needed before it's right.


 8:04 pm on Jul 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

Let's stick to the thread topic, how to avoid PR miscues in business blogs.


 3:39 am on Jul 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Why would healthcare companies even need to advertise? Its not like i can choose my provider! You have to quite your job, shop around for a job that is with a different company and hope you get it...

As for how to avoid a gaff like this? Common sense - don't get political on your Business blog.

Its okay to have fun, okay to do business, okay to be yourself, but the second you turn political for one side of the isle over another, you're asking for trouble.

[edited by: ByronM at 3:41 am (utc) on July 7, 2007]

[edited by: rogerd at 1:34 pm (utc) on July 7, 2007]
[edit reason] OT [/edit]


 2:35 pm on Jul 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

>> Why would healthcare companies even need to advertise?

to avoid regulations. if their rep is bad (yeah, I know) then the theory goes that Congress etc gets feedback from people and enacts legislation.


 5:46 pm on Jul 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

to avoid regulations. if their rep is bad (yeah, I know) then the theory goes that Congress etc gets feedback from people and enacts legislation.

Let 'em face the will of the people :)

But seriously, i think getting political is the worst mistake a blog can do. Its okay to make mistakes, be a little human and have a personal face on the company through a blog, but you risk a lot of anything you do is politically charged and i'm sort of surprised google would have let someone make a statement that would condone protecting corporate interests with a slight political twist.


 6:39 pm on Jul 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

What should firms do to maximize Web 2.0 benefits while minimizing negative publicity?

Just own up to it but there is a lot more to it than that in some cases. It comes down to being honest and living up what you say your stated goals are and how your actions reflect that or how the market or customer base perceives that you are living up to them.

If you love Google and everything they do and own their stock, then you're going to love opinions like this and probably think they are really in touch with you and your goals are aligned with theirs.

If you think "Do No Evil" is lip service, then something like this comes out and strengthens your belief. Then they come out and say oops, we shouldn't have said what we think or what someone here thinks, it probably strengthens your belief even more that its about PR more than honesty.

It also depends on how the actions of a company affect the customers in the marketplace. Take Dell and their troubles lately with motherboards and customer service. It's a PITA to deal with those things & maybe you've had issues with Vista too. Then they come out with this about Vista & XP [webmasterworld.com] and though you may had had issues with them in the past, taking this stand acknowledges that while they might have had or still have issues, they are listening to the marketplace and despite their business relationship Microsoft, they are willing to acknowledge and address an issue that their customers may face and customers may feel good about that. In Dells case an action can help to correct the problem because the problem and perception is really tied to the product. How about Google?


 7:40 pm on Jul 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

This reminds me of the early days of the Web when the IT dept. put up the Web site and was put in charge of editing it: BAD IDEA!

As always, professional marketing and PR folks are the ones who should be in charge of ANYTHING a company does in public.

Same old song for some of us.... ;-}

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