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