Lately I have spoken to several brand mangers and PR professionals who are concerned about becoming an innocent victim of blogger-wrath.
There are lots of stories about brand pressure where the internet and bloggers plays a role [“Dell Hell”, Kleenex, Wal-Mart Pressure Groups, Wal-Mart and Bloggers, Kryptonite Lock] but does every brand manager now have to live in fear of every disgruntled customer with a blog?
The short answer is “no”, and the slightly longer one is “no, but it depends..”.
For a negative story to gain a growing following and reach that tipping point where it gains a life of its own (where the story about the story becomes interesting) it seems that a number of prerequisites need to be in place:
1) The story must be true and must have merit. False claims do not get much support as they erode the credibility of those who reference it (as a problem).
2) The issue/problem/injustice must be clear: A product that is generally not working; a service that is sold but cannot be delivered; an organisation that is saying one thing and doing the total opposite. If you can argue the case from different points of view it will most likely only gain traction with those who already share the bloggers view on the issue.
3) The issue/problem/injustice the blogger is facing/experiencing should be experienced by several others. The issue must be relevant for at least a reasonably large constituency. If it’s just the one customer who had a bad experience it is not enough to start a fire.
4) The blogger must be a good communicator. If the problem is described in too much technical detail mainstream media and less technical bloggers may not find it as interesting.
5) Branded online media (can be one of the top 20 blogs) or traditional off line media brands must at some point in time write about the story to give it that final piece of credibility.
So to sum it up: if you are doing what you are saying you are doing and not making objectively false claims about your product or service, then chances are you will be fine.
If, on the other hand, you are saying one thing and doing the opposite, then it is probably only a matter of time before you find yourself exposed.
Today BBC has an article
about the We Media Global Forum
where they follow up on their previous story about the impact of bloggers.
Onalytica and the "Dell Hell" case
is referenced again
The story draws on a speech given by well-known analyst Julian Smith from Jupiter Research