Flying High Above the Crisis Monday, Apr 6 2009 

In my last post I talked about crisis communication and how Whole Foods did not respond to their crisis very well. Now I am going to talk about a company that had a crisis and responded to it in a great way.

Southwest Airlines was reported to have missed inspections on some of their airplanes. Journalists and reporters printed stories about the incident and Southwest was forced to land 41 of its planes.

Southwest has a phone bank in case of crises like this one. There are people who answer phones and respond to reporters’ questions and concerns about the inspection issue. Other people that had to be reached were the employees and of course the customers. Because many of the employees for the airline are in the air and cannot reach a computer, there was another form of technology that was being used, the telephone. The Southwest CEO recorded three news lines in a week for the employees over the phone. In these news lines, the CEO talked about things that were happening within the organization that the employees would otherwise not know about. This is especially important during a crisis because employees hear things about their company from other media outlets, but they aren’t able to decipher what is true and what isn’t.

Reaching customers during a crisis is also vital. Southwest posted updates on their company blog, Nuts About Southwest. This encouraged bloggers to respond to what was happening within Southwest. The company made sure they responded to both the positive and negative comments on the blog. I have talked previously about the advantages of negative comments and how they are crucial to making a company better and Southwest understands this.

The Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for Southwest Airlines talks more about their crisis and how they responded to it both internally and externally.

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Don’t Panic Monday, Apr 6 2009 

Having a good reputation is one of the most important things for a company to uphold. When a company’s reputation is tarnished, consumers lose trust in the company. This is concerning because without trust, consumers will no longer want to be a part of a company or buy from or invest in the business. A way reputation in a company becomes flawed is when a crisis occurs. A crisis is an unfortunate event that results in negative media attention which leads to decline in sales. Because crises are bound to happen sometime in the life span of a company, it is important to have a strategy in dealing with it. This is why crisis communication is a very important job in a company and should be taken seriously.

The crisis communicator’s main job is to react and respond to the problem as soon as possible. The person needs to put together a crisis communication plan with a team of people to put forth the plan. An article from Howstuffworks by Dave Roos titled How Crisis Communication Plans Work, goes through the steps of what to do before, during and after a company crisis. Roos says that companies need to ‘tell it all and tell it fast’ to their customers. Nothing is worse than when a company lies or misleads their customers by not telling the whole truth of when a disaster occurs. Roos goes on to say that the next step should be to put out a press release stating what exactly happened and what the company is doing to fix it.

During a crisis, a company should be the one to try to control the message that goes out to the public. Holding a press conference and then blogging with customers is a way to start this.

A company that had a crisis back in July was Whole Foods. There were mouse droppings and a dead mouse found in one of the food stores in Chicago. When the store temporarily closed and word got out to the public of what happened, Whole Foods was slow to react. The company did not handle their crisis in a smart way. There was no immediate communication with their consumers and therefore people were upset. The video below talks more about the Whole Foods incident and what the company did wrong in dealing with their crisis.

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“We Make Brands Social” Monday, Mar 30 2009 

Vitrue is a company that helps businesses and organizations use social media successfully. Their motto is “We Make Brands Social. This means the company will guide and teach the businesses how to engage and interact with consumers by using social media. Vitrue’s customers are from various marketers such as, Chick-Fil-A and Arby’s, publishers such as, facebook and MTV and agencies such as, Olson and Mediacom Interaction. Vitrue gives companies a strategic approach of how to go about connecting themselves and their brand to their consumers on a personal level. They provide companies with “…the tools, the team and the technology.” Some tools include: review and approve consumer submitted content, manage and communicate with the members and provide site management tools. The team includes an Engagement Manager and several project managers that will help a company turn around its communication in 30 days. The technology is up to date, reliable and safe. The people assisting the companies are experienced with using the technology as well.

Reggie Bradford, the CEO of Vitrue, wanted his customers, who needed help with their social media use, to see examples of what makes a company good at using social media successfully. He came up with the Vitrue 100. This is a list of the top social brands of 2008. These companies have used social media such as blogs, social networking and video sharing successfully in connecting and starting a conversation with their consumers. A company that made it high up the list was Disney, a company that I spoke of in my previous post. Disney was #4 on the list which is great for the company. It shows that the company knows what it is doing in connecting with its customers. Momspanel is a perfect example of Disney using social media to start a conversation with their brand in a positive way. (For more information on momspanel, go to my previous post.)

Reggie Bradford talks more on the Vitrue 100 and what made those companies on the list stand out above the rest.

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Mother Knows Best Saturday, Mar 28 2009 

Going off from my last post on moms, I thought I would talk about how the mothers at Disney are communicating to each other. Millions of families travel to Walt Disney World every year. Many of these people being first comers to the Disney theme park have had many questions and concerns about the park, but have had no one to turn to for advice and answers. Disney, however, came up with a brilliant idea to fix this problem and created Momspanel.

Momspanel is an online question & answer forum made for moms by moms. On the forum, parents can submit questions on any topic about Walt Disney World, and one of the nine moms will respond with an answer. Peoples’ questions range from not knowing where to make reservations, to not knowing if they should buy a dining plan or wondering what the weather will be like while they are there. Parents can search topics that people have already asked questions about such as, planning & budgeting, theme parks and shopping & nightlife. You can also read biographies about the panel moms.

Disney, in my opinion is a brand people trust and believe in. The Momspanel is a way for people to show that. Duncan Wardle, the head of global PR at Disney decided to not monitor comments written on Momspanel. This was a great choice, in that when there is a negative comment being said about Disney, there are twice as many people defending Disney and disagreeing what that person has said. Parents are being honest in how they feel about the company. Momspanel is also a way to stir up word of mouth. All of these moms on the panel have such great things to say about Disney, so anyone who goes on the forum will see that and probably be more likely to go to the park.

Below is a video of Wardle talking more on Disney’s Momspanel.

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It Started With Five Moms… Sunday, Mar 22 2009 

In my previous post I talked about word of mouth and word of mouth marketing, but purely by definition. Now I am going to give a concrete example of how an organization uses word of mouth successfully.

Over the counter drug abuse among teenagers is not as well known or talked about as often as other drug abuses. One of the over the counter drugs abused is cough medicine. Kids taking much more than the recommended dose get high off of dextromethorphan, the ingredient in many cough medicines.

A group of women that are trying to do something about this abuse are the Five Moms. The Five Moms are from all over the country, and have completely different professions, but they have come together to support a common cause. Their mission is to “spread the word” to parents about cough medicine abuse.

The Five Moms’ word of mouth campaign is a perfect example of what WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association) promotes and wants companies to start doing. (I spoke of WOMMA in my previous post if you would like more background on the organization.) The idea is that these Five Moms will tell five other moms about this drug abuse problem, and then those five moms will tell another five, and so on and so on. This innovative word of mouth tactic has become very successful. If a mother knows her child is at risk for something, she is going to feel strongly against that risk. Moms are going to want to pass on the message to other moms because they feel passionate about this drug abuse issue. They are going to want to save not only their children, but the children of their friends, family, coworkers and beyond.

The Five Moms’ website is a great tool to stir up word of mouth. It discusses how to talk to your children about over the counter drug abuse, it tells you how you can take action in your community, and there are also testimonials from teens who have abused cough medicine. These things will get parents interested in the subject and make them want to reach out to others. When there is a cause someone believes in, they will want to share it with as many people as possible.

In the video below, Andy Sernovitz, the author of Word of Mouth Marketing, who I talked about in my last post, interviewed a couple of moms who are involved with the Five Moms campaign. The moms talk about what they do and why they think this campaign has become such a success.

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Mouthing Off Saturday, Mar 21 2009 

In my first post I discussed interactive marketing and the importance for companies to reach out to their customers in search of feedback and opinion in order to make their company better. A way to stimulate interactive marketing is by word of mouth. Word of mouth is where consumers give information about a company to others,  making something about your company or your company itself better known, hopefully in a positive light. In order to start this word of mouth, companies must use word of mouth marketing. This is where a company gives consumers reason to talk to others about their company because of something they have done to spur conversation.

In the video below, Andy Sernovitz, the author of Word of Mouth Marketing, discusses Potbelly’s sandwich chain and their successful word of mouth marketing technique.

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Potbelly’s coupon idea is just one of many great word of mouth marketing ideas. The goal is to initially reach as many people as possible. If a person thinks there is something great about a company, they are going to want to tell everyone they know. The company puts word of mouth into motion and the customers do the rest.

WOMMA, or the Word of Mouth Marketing Association is dedicated to teaching and informing people about word of mouth marketing and showing how to use it correctly. WOMMA members consist of marketers, agencies, researchers and practitioners who are committed to honest word of mouth marketing. Their website provides resources such as, an influencer handbook, a buyers guide and also gives a list of recommended books to read related to word of mouth marketing. WOMMA also hosts many events targeted at helping companies use word of mouth marketing. There is a video on their site that was filmed at a WOMMA event. People give their feedback about the event and discuss what they have done with word of mouth marketing. The video also discusses WOMM-U, or word of mouth marketing university. WOMM-U is a two day conference where you get to hear major brands talk about their word of mouth practices. An intimate roundtable setting is provided where people can have a one on one conversation and of course there will be presentations and workshops. The conference will be May13-14 2009 in South Beach and you can register online. Below is the WOMMA video.

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OoLala, OoVoo! Sunday, Mar 8 2009 

Video communication is an innovative way of interacting with other people. When you are physically miles away from someone and can’t meet up in person, video communication is an alternative way to be face-to-face while talking.

Skype is a well known video communication system that is frequently used. It is free and can be easily downloaded; all you need is a web cam. A newer video communication system is OoVoo. It has many of the same features as skype, such as video calls, instant messaging, sending calls and messages to phones as well as sending and receiving voicemails, however, it has a few significant differences.

Here is a lighthearted promotional video for OoVoo.

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OoVoo allows you to video chat with up to six people at a time. This is not only a great way to keep in touch with old friends and family, but it is useful for corporations and businesses as well. Although internal blogs are useful and should be continually used, OoVoo allows CEOs to talk face-to-face with other top executives of their company. Instead of having a physical meeting, this makes it easier for communication and is more effective and useful than phone calls. A CEO can also use OoVoo to talk with a whole room of employees from another state or country. The CEO will be more engaged with his or her employees and know first hand what is going on despite the space barrier.

OoVoo’s other features include, web video call, high resolution video, video call recording, video messaging, phone calls and text chat.

Shel Holtz discusses OoVoo in one of his posts titled OoVoo Has Big Potential. He used the six person video chat and said everyone came in loud and clear and that OoVoo gives Skype a run for its money. He talks about the web video call feature that allows you to video chat with friends who don’t have OoVoo and overall speaks highly of the online communication.

I predict that video communication is going to be more frequently used and will replace telephone conferences. It is an interesting new technology that businesses should look into getting.

How to Respond to Negative Feedback Friday, Mar 6 2009 

In my previous post I discussed the advantages of negative feedback. I explained why companies should embrace and react to what customers say about them and turn it around into something positive. Well yesterday I came across a news article in the Daily News Record about physicians doing the complete opposite which resulted in losing the respect and trust of their patients.

When someone is looking for a physician, he or she will ask friends, family and neighbors who they would recommend. In other cases, people choose to search online for ratings and recommendations of doctors in their area. This is because customers tend to trust other customers’ opinions. In the article, Doctors Pay Company for Waiver Agreement, some doctors complained about negative comments that were said about them and their practice on the internet.

Dr. Jeffrey Segal from North Carolina thinks that these negative comments will ruin a doctor’s reputation and that they should be deleted from the web. Many of the comments posted about the doctors can be found on RateMDs.com. This website allows people to search for doctors in their area as well as post comments and rate the doctors they have been to. A quote that was in the article stated a comment about a doctor on RateMDs which said, “Very unhelpful, arro­gant, did not listen and cut me off, seemed much too happy to have power (and abuse it!) over suffer­ing people.” According to Segal this comment is horrific and has no relevance to rating a doctor. I believe quite the contrary. No one wants a doctor who is unhelpful and arrogant. This could affect the way the physician tends to you as a patient and you will receive unhappy results.

Doctors like Segal have been asking their patients to sign waivers stating that he or she agrees to not post comments about the doctor on the internet. If the doctor finds comments on a site such as RateMDs, they have asked the site to take off the comments because of the waivers patients have signed. Thankfully, the cofounder of RateMDs, John Swapceinski, is refusing to take off comments despite the waiver. He says it goes against people’s rights and is “repulsive.”

If only the doctors embraced the negativity. Obviously something is wrong with the way they do business if they are getting criticism. People will and should write what the feel and think about these doctors. Everyone has a right to know if something like malpractice is going on or merely if the doctor is a rude and negligent man.

In the video below, Jim Davis, the senior vice president and chief marketing officer of SAS talks to Mark Ragan, the CEO of Ragan Communications about what to do when companies receive negative comments on blogs and websites. This would have been helpful information for Segal and the other doctors on what they should have done and how they should have handled the negative feedback they received.

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The Positives of Negative Feedback Sunday, Mar 1 2009 

Feedback is essential to creating successful interactivity. Knowing how a customer feels about a product, service or the company in general is important for that company to succeed. Although positive feedback is great and shows that people are happy with the company; negative feedback has its own benefits. Companies are always looking to improve, and in order to do that, they need to be able to pinpoint exactly what needs to be changed. This is where negative customer feedback comes in.

Social media allows consumers to express what they like and/or dislike about a company. It isn’t enough however for a company to just listen to the problems customers encounter. The company has to take that information and actually implement the changes that need to be made. In The Positive Side of Negative Feedback, Aria White discusses reasons why companies should pay attention to negative feedback. If a complaint from an unhappy customer is ignored, that customer will pass on the negativity he/she has experienced. This word of mouth phenomenon will make the company lose customers and not regain others. Also, negative feedback will attract a company’s attention to a problem that otherwise would not have been noticed or known. Reacting to complaints will make a company significantly better.

On the blog, Web Strategy by Jeremiah, a frequently asked question is, “what if someone leaves a negative comment on my site/blog/forum?” Jeremiah Owyang answers this question by giving three advantages of receiving negative feedback:

You’re in the Know: It is better for you to be the first one to know what is wrong. The information is coming straight to you which gives you a chance to do something about it. Also, it lets time pass before other outlets let out the negatives of you, your company, blog, product etc.

Involve Them: After receiving negative comments, embrace them and do the correct changes. Most of the time these comments are trying to help you make your company, blog, product etc. better. When the right changes are made, these customers will become even happier with you than before. They will see that you listened to them and took them seriously. The word of mouth will be in your favor.

Opportunity: It is an opportunity to fix something that needs fixing. It is the smart thing to do to respond to negative feedback. Having happy customers is the most important thing and is something you should always be aiming for.

Interactive Marketing Saturday, Feb 28 2009 

The most important thing a company can do to make an impact on a consumer, is to have effective communication. Although communication is essential, companies need to go a step further and actually have an interaction with the consumer.

According to Goran Vlasic and Tanja Kesic’s Analysis of Consumers’ Attitudes toward Interactivity and Relationship Personalization as Contemporary Developments in Interactive Marketing Communication, interactivity is important in a company’s marketing strategy. Interactivity is defined as a two-way communication between the company and consumer. The consumer gives feedback in result to the personalization and attentiveness the company gives to the consumer.

Marketing once had been an impersonal, one-way messaging system in which the audience’s opinion and response was not very important. Today, more and more companies are realizing the vitality of the consumer opinion. Social mediums such as Blogs are allowing the consumer to freely voice their opinion and are allowing the company to listen, respond and react to that opinion.

In Measuring Consumer Interactivity in Response to Campaigns Coupling Mobile and Television Media by Robert Davis and Laszlo Sajtos, they discuss how consumers use their mobile phones to interact with television content. For example, viewers are encouraged to respond to advertisements by sending text messages or video messages to interact with the brand. In other words, when a television show is going on a commercial break, viewers will be asked to vote on something through online or text message services. This allows companies to gauge how perceptive, active and trusting their customers are by looking at the amount and immediacy of messages they receive.

Although this is a different form of interactive marketing than blogs, this form of interactivity can be successful in its own right. E News Online is a great example of this television interactivity marketing. There is a section that allows viewers of “E News” to go on their website and vote for who they thought was the best dressed on the Red Carpet. This is one way “E News” will be able to judge what their audience likes and how many people are devoted to them, by seeing the number of participants involved in interactive mediums such as this one. I, personally am an avid “E News” watcher and I participated in the voting, however, not because I saw the advertisement for it, but because I occasionally visit their website and I saw it there and it interested me. In the end, it doesn’t matter how the company convinces a customer to participate, it only matters that there is participation and therefore a form of interactivity.

I also found a great post from the “Influential Marketing Blog,” titled How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy. Something that I had not heard about before reading this post that I found interesting was content marketing. Content marketing is defined as creating content about a subject, then delivering a message about that subject that influences someone into buying or recommending that service. The author gives a list of six guidelines of how to use content marketing successfully.