Every company makes mistakes, and I’m actually quite forgiving about it, what they do next is what will make or break me as a customer, and I have the habit of telling a few thousand people.
I’ve been a customer of Dreamhost since I’ve had this domain and have had quite a few outages, and recently my blog was 403 (forbidden to others), as they forgot to fix all the settings when I moved to a dedicated server. Despite these hardships (which I’m willing to let go, you know I used to work at Exodus, a web hosting company) I’m sympathetic towards web hosts.
Despite my willingness to forgive, I have a hard time when I feel like I’m being patronized when I received the following email:
Ack. Through a COMPLETE bumbling on our part, we’ve accidentally attempted to charge you for the ENTIRE year of 2008 (and probably 2009!) ALREADY (it was all due to a fat finger)!
We’re really really realllly embarassed about this, but you have nothing to worry about. Please ignore any confusing billing messages you may have received recently; we’ve already removed all those bum future charges on your account (#198980) and fixed everything up.
Thank you very very much for your patience with this.. we PROMISE this won’t happen again. There’s no need to reply to this message unless of course you have any other questions at all!
The Foolish DreamHost Billing Team!
To add insult to injury…
Despite the misspelling (embarassed) what really caught me was the blame of a ‘fat finger’ (I subdued my original title for the post). That’s not the cause, and companies need to take accountability in a human, and up front way of what the problem was. Later, I discovered an apology and explanation blog post, entitled “Um, Whoops.” sadly, they used cartoons (Homer Simpson) and images from pop movies (as well as elsewhere on their blog) to back peddle. I don’t need language written in chat-room-type language, I expect professional and sincere communications. The Dreamhost status blog (is this run by a different group? it must be) provides the information in a succinct, yet sincere manner.
While we complain about the cold heartless press release, I think the Dreamhost communications is a swing too far to the left, and recommend that we all find a place somewhere closer to the middle. I’d rather see pictures of the employees working on the problem (or live streaming) from the data center to demonstrate to me how professional they are working.
This patronizing doesn’t get my sympathy, instead it makes me irritated.
Special Notes: I had previously published this post, but there was a mixup with the announcement dates and removed it. Detail here.
Social Media for Corporations: To build a better world
I’m somewhat sympathetic to large brands launching social media programs, having done it at Hitachi, and I stayed close to Dell during their launches, but I’ll have to admit, Wal-Mart/Edelman have had two major failures and it’s current Facebook initiative isn’t going as one would hope.
For many of us social media folks, Wal-Mart is a case study for doing it wrong, from Astroturfing fake consumer blogs, to launching a MySpace clone that closed after 10 weeks, trust is certainly not there.
All of the above is what I told Edelman folks who were reading my blog and interactive me in Facebook. They let me know that they are helping their client Wal-Mart launch a new blog, one that is to be transparent authentic, and written from actual Wal-Mart employees. I’ve seen a preview of this blog, which will be letting the buyers and purchasers of products speak directly to the world in a conversation.
Wal-Mart’s newest Social Media Program: Checkout
Although it’s not live, Wal-Mart’s latest blogging program will be called “Checkout”, I’ve seen the preview and it self-states that “This is a blog, simply, about a team of experts at Wal-Mart who have really cool jobs working with gadgets, wine, sustainability, fashion and more.”
You can find Wal-Mart’s latest social media venture at http://checkoutblog.com/
An Interview with Rand Waddoups, Wal-Mart’s newest blogger
One of the bloggers Rand Waddoups contacted me this morning, we had a brief conversation, and I probed him to make sure he’s the real deal, you see, I’ve become a hopeful skeptic.
I did some Google Searches on Rand, (interesting interviews on sustainability) it’s confirmed by others he is indeed a real employee, and he sent me an email as well.
I learned that Rand, who’s based in Arkansas has been with Wal-Mart for seven years, and first started out as a purchaser for Ice, (not that exciting huh?) then moved into buying snacks and then moved into the sustainability role. Currently as the Senior Director of Strategy and Sustainability, Rand insists he doesn’t know all the answers to how a company can buy green products but wants the community to help him move forward.
Why blog? I asked Rand, “I’m new to blogging, its going to be interesting, but the main reason is I want to do better at listening to the market and learn. Sustainability has to be answered, and although there are other ways to learn, this is one of the ways”
“What concerns do you have?”
I asked Rand what are some of his concerns (I reminded him in detail of previous failures) and his responded “I’m new to it”. I gave Rand some advice on how to listen, using that feedreader (attention Edelman, please train clients how to listen), and suggested they use media like video and images, as those are very human mediums, and the trust of Wal-Mart blogging programs has been tainted.
Comments will be moderated by lightly moderated by Edelman staff, but just to weed out the nasties. Rand tells me his blog posts will not be filtered or reviewed, he can publish at will (a best practice), and he hopes to post twice a week.
“How is this different than previous initiatives?”
How is this different than previous social media efforts at Wal-Mart? I asked Rand, he comfortably responded that; “It’s an open conversation with people, its not about PR or Marketing, I want to better understand sustainability”
Feedback from the Community
As I wrote this post, I’ve asked my Twitter network (all 1000 of them) what they thought of Wal-Mart’s programs. I asked them to fill in the blank: “Wal-Mart’s social media programs are ________”
By the time I finished writing this post the following responses came in:
“… decided by executives who are too proud to let an outside consultant make *all* of the strategic decisions.”
“I loved their blogging across America campaign (joke!)”
“__disingenuous, insulting crap.”
“….obviously social media programs.”
” Irrelevant to me.”
“sad, not getting it, using old techniques in new media, unfortunate, a good example for me to use as what NOT to do in my book.”
“Wal-Mart’s social media programs are nonexistent.”
Although their responses are public on Twitter, I chose not to publish their names, they can choose to self identify in the comments.
Wal-Mart has had a series of failed or half-willed attempts at Social Media, their credibility has been tarnished, I’m honestly wishing them the best in this latest venture. I and many others will be watching and from the sidelines, at some point, I hope to start rooting for them too, I really do.
Wal-Mart could use an Evangelist (but not a Lionel of Dell, nor a Scoble)
Under Analysis: Facebook Deployment Wal-Mart’s vs Target (one is working and the other is stalled)
Case Study: Wal-Mart’s MySpace clone dies after 10 weeks
Case Study: Caught Astroturfing, Wal-Mart’s fake blog
Wal-Mart Watch Blog: I expect the Official Wal-Mart blog to engage this group
Update: On a related note, the Blog Council (A user group for corporations that blog) just launched yesterday, it would be interesting to see Wal-Mart align with some peers, to learn and share best practices.
Although filmed a while ago, Jason Baptiste and I get together at Miami’s WeMedia conference, and discuss the future of the social press release. There are several PR firms that are adopting and implementing them, although there’s been some criticism about it. (Brian has a lengthy counter)
Upon further inspection, Brian Solis has a guide on the SMPR, but sadly, I don’t see a very clear one sentence definition.
I realy enjoy speaking with Jason from Publictivity, he’s clear, articulate and knowledgeable on his topic area, thanks for the patience on posting this video! I’m meeting with some potential folks who may publish my archived videos, stay tuned.
At BlogHer07 there was a bit of a dustup from bloggers critisizing the PR industry, David Wescott was at the start of it.
I really like what the folks at Ogilvy are doing in the Social Media space, John Bell, Rohit, and others have been very proactive in the social media space and are showing a lot of thought leadership. I’ve even worked with them, as we share some common clients.
Ogilvy is building some rules of engagement, read The Ogilvy Blogger Outreach Code of Ethics . It’s a good effort in building an effective way for all parties to share information.
I get pitched by PR folks very frequently, and it’s likely to dramatically increase in coming months. I get a lot of emails, and now facebook messages from PR professionals. Here’s a few tips on how to get me to get interested in your clients work. Don’t pitch me. Instead, get to know me, and build a relationship, leave comments on my blog, join the conversation. Find out what I’m interested in. Read my blog, examine the keywords, read the about page, my focus is on Web Strategy, find out what that means! I usually ignore the generic press release, it gets deleted quickly, consider a personal message. Consider not pitching a press release or announcement at all, why not point me to relevant blog posts from the client (non marketing ones) that I’d be willing to add to my blog. Always remember that I’m thinking of my readers first, so if the content is not going to help them, I’m not going to point to it –think backwards.
I have a lot of friends in the PR industry, and at one point, was even considering joining a PR firm to help lead their social media programs. I have a lot more respect for this industry as I started to get more involved. So you know, I will glance at all of your emails, won’t respond to 99% of them, but will always treat you with respect.
I know most of the “Community Managers” in Silicon Valley and beyond, many of them are my friends, I read their blogs, see them at events. A small group I help them to grow, and mentor them as Shel Israel did to me, so I know the Community manager role well.
We also know that the Community Manager role is appearing at almost every company, (learn more about this role) and every PR firm is starting to have a division to focus on this area as well.
This is a great list of questions that arm anyone that’s going into a role that requires them to be involved with social media. James Durbin has spent some time to help the job seeker make sure they don’t get into a firm or agency that asks them to do something un-authentic, awkward, or just boring.
List of Social Media Interview Questions by James Durbin
There’s a few questions that I would add:
-How is success measured, and does that impact my income?
-Does social media only imply online work, or does it include real life events
-Will I have resources and time to attend industry conferences, workshops, and events?
-How will I be encouraged to learn and stay on top of the fast moving curve in social media?
-Important one: Will I be encouraged to make mistakes, hopefully so our clients don’t have to? (I’m fortunate to be a role where this is ok)
-How much do you value social media in the future of communications?
-How much freedom will I be allowed to craft out this new role?
Apparently, I ticked off some PR folks (or least ruffled their feathers) in my recent post where I chimed in after Guy Kawasaki and Dave McClure on what’s wrong with PR. Steve, Mike, and others chimed into this interesting conversation. (over 100 people linked to Guy’s original post)
For the record, I wasn’t trying to make anyone uncomfortable, but I simply wanted point out what I’ve learned in my experience on what will work in this new age where the community has taken control. Read carefully, I was demonstrating what the changes are, and the impacts that the web has had on agencies that have NOT adapted. If you are a PR pro that has adapted, then you have my complete support and that post was not written about your firm.
Brian Solis provides 12 reasons on how to fix the issues that were complained about, I recently talked to him on the phone, and I know he spent an incredible amount of time thinking the issue over, it’s a must read.
Here’s a summary of Brian’s suggesitons:
1 – Understand first, what PR is and isn’t.
2 – Don’t under value PR.
3 – PR is not a switch.
4 – In most cases, coverage doesn’t just happen.
5 – Just because you created the product doesn’t mean you’re the best person to sell it.
6 – Understand that PR is only an umbrella for the specific communications initiatives that will help you reach complementary, simultaneous goals.
7 – No matter what industry you’re in, realize that the most popular blogs, newspapers, or magazines are only one part of the process.
8 – Engage in social media. We live in a “social” economy and the only way to succeed in it, is to participate.
9 – Support your PR program and feed it as you do any other branch of the company.
10 – If you find a PR person that truly lives and breathes the company and the product, never let them go. They are a rare breed and deserve support and promotion.
11 – Meet with your PR team regularly to communicate realistic goals and measure progress.
12 – Agree upon metrics in advance.
Thanks Brian, you’ve really added some quality points and ‘how-tos’ that have added additional points to the conversation. Andy Lark has some excellent reasons why PR does work, worth a read.
Update: Apparently nothing I said was new as Shel says this is the Annual Bashing of PR.
I really like this piece from Jupiter’s Michael Gartenberg who gives some practical Lessons for Analyst Relations. For many corporate marketers, having excellent reviews and research done by Analyst firms helps the decision making process, especially with complex products and solutions that span multiple groups.
In the last few years, a new role has emerged in the decision making process, bloggers (often normal customers or prospects that have an opinion about your product) can influence the decision and buying process.
At Hitachi Data Systems as the Online Community Manager, I had an informal role to be responsible for Blogger Relations, I’ve reached out, built relationships, and even met them in real life. Microsoft IE team treats me like a blogger/analyst and has invited me to cover their beta and final release of their product. Now, at PodTech, I consult our Fortune 1000 clients on how to deploy Social Media. Here’s a crash course on Blogger Relations.
Here’s a few tips to help you as you reach out to bloggers in your industry.
1) Blogger Relations is often the role of many people in the company, a previous term we all know could be called customer relations. Same customer love, just some new tools a few rules.
2) Bloggers may have first hand experience with your product, and may be more trusted than Analysts, Press, and your Marketers. Bloggers that talk about your products may be a customer or someone that has experience using your product. Sometime this could be different from Analysts who are not using your product. In the level of trust, it’s possible that prospects may trust someone who has first had experience very high. An Analyst may have authority in a particular subject. In many industries, this role is merging as bloggers become so knowable they become authorities. This is the case of Blogger/Podcast Martin McKeay in the security industry.
3) Know your bloggers and know them well. I’m echoing Michael here, as you should really spend time reading a blogger in your industry before making contact, and especially before pitching to one. How do you pitch to a blogger? You don’t. It’s a very different approach. I get pitched several times a week, it’s easy to spot who reads me and who doesn’t, guess who gets the welcome.
4) Provide multiple points of contact. As a Community Advocate/Manager (here’s some resources on becoming a Community Manager), your job is to listen to the market and line up the conversations with the right people in your company. You’re more of a traffic cop rather than a person can answer all the questions. Besides, it’s likely that you’re not an expert at every technical aspect of your product, find those that know and teach them to interact with bloggers in your industry using the same tools, or some of these responses that Nathan recommends.
If you’ve anything to add, or any questions, please leave a comment or contact me, I’m here to help.
This one potential scenario plan is for a group of individuals in a corporate setting that agree that business blogging is important, (Although others may not agree) and need a plan to kickstart the process.
Since I’ve been through it in a corporate environment, I’m always willing to help others.
Use all listening tools, technorati, sphere, google blog search, google alerts, talkdigger, and other tools to listen to the voice of the customer. Really, really know what people are saying as when you blog, their voice will connect with your business blog. All though advanced techniques, think about all the things you’ll need to monitor. Also read ‘how to listen to the voice of the customer”
Seek High Level Sponsorship
Socialize why the voice of the customer is so important, and why keeping your company in this conversation is important to stay relevent. Tell your upper management why this medium is helpful as it could save time if used correctly, has a long reach, and is very low cost. Make an agreement for at least 6 months support for a trial program –and you’ll benchmark the success.
Understand the Two-way Medium
Take a look at the tools, perhaps setup a practice blog (on a different subject) and get to know wordpress or movable type/typepad. Learn how trackbacks, comments, RSS, feedreaders all work. It makes sense to setup a practice blog as this is a dialogue, not only a diary.
Selecting the right bloggers
For many companies, allowing all employees to blog is not a reality. I already wrote about how to select the right corporate blogger, I would suggest that you have a ‘testing’ process where blog hopefuls will email proposed blog text once a week for a month. I’ll bet the wash out rate is 50% due to time, writing style, and commitment. (Edit: Brian and I just had a conversation, and in the long run, I believe all employees will be allowed –as the next generation of workers will be blogging before we hire them. Companies that don’t allow blogging will have a difficult time hiring)
In the meantime, your web technical team should be selecting the right tools, preparing to setup analytics, technorati, and feedreaders, and provide training for the bloggers.
Kickoff the business blog, not with a lot of fanfare, but quietly. Let is build organically and naturally with your community.
This video caught my eye of Steve Rubel discussing how PR and Marketing and Media folks are now engaging in Second Life. I’ve played with Second Life and still see it as emerging –haven’t touched in a while, may return later. It’s still interesting how Steve mentions how PR is not about controlling the message, but being involved in a dialogue –give up some control to gain a lot more. The same practice he’s applying to second life is what he preached about blogging.
There are so many websites/mediums to explore, it’s simply difficult to see them all. Don’t know what Second life is? Start here –or listen to my tour. Steve Rubel is one of the top PR bloggers in the world and works at the famous Edelman PR firm –he has a blog called Micropersuasions that is a ‘must-subscribe’ if you’re in that industy. I met Steve in SF during a blogger dinner a few months ago –he had this to say.