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Six Tips For Brand Managers Who Might Be Afraid Of Bloggers

Recently I wrote a post that outlined the Five Simple Steps to Bringing a Brand to their (Virtual) Knees. I can’t offer you a problem without a solution.

Brands really don’t need to be afraid of bloggers, they just need to think like them (a little bit) so here are six tips for brand managers. Please feel free to add more in the comments if you think I’ve left something out.

1. Build Social Capital early and often: The best way to make sure you never have a big problem with bloggers is by participating in their discussions before the drama. If you follow folks like Scott Monty and Christopher Barger on Twitter you’ll see that their streams aren’t just about Ford and General Motors, they are simply on Twitter to be part of the online community. I’m quite certain that they are listening intently for their own brands, and for automobile news too, but both men have tweeted about their shoes within 24 hours of writing this. Now, you may think that they are wasting their time, but I can tell you that I personally have emailed each of them (called one of them on vacation) when disaster looked like it was looming.  Both men interact with a diverse community, and the Social Capital they’ve built (and continue to build) acts as a set of eyes and ears, even when they are on vacation.

2. Do not hand social media over to interns: Interns are adorable, and I recognize that businesses need them for things like answering phones and fetching coffee. However, when your intern is in charge of your facebook page you’ve just handed the keys over to someone who was probably delivering pizza last month. I know any idiot can “do” facebook, but it takes a non-idiot to figure out which gripes require your attention, and when your silence will be deafening. Social media is maturing, and there are pros available. Hire them before you have to shop for a crisis communicator (I hear those guys are expensive).

3. Monitor your brand round the clock: Small businesses do it, because they have to. You need to also. It doesn’t have to be one person, but at the barest minimum a google alert with YourBrandHere and boycott, sucks, or criminal as a keyword will keep you informed of a tempest brewing. If you’ve hired a pro they’ll be able to look at it and see if it’s worth paying any attention to (not all shrieking matters). Again, if you’ve built social capital you might have eyes and ears everywhere.

4. Respond truthfully: One big criticism of of the Motrin fiasco is that the apology wasn’t sincere (authentic). Seth Godin says “This isn’t a honest note from a real person. It’s the carefully crafted non-statement of a committee. What an opportunity to get personal and connected and build bridges…” To a degree he’s right, but my understanding is that J&J’s hands were tied because of legalese required by drug companies. I may be wrong, it may have just been a crappy reply. What works though is a well thought out reply that explains why you are an important part of a community. Just this weekend Rufus from Babble added a very long comment at phdinparenting that included these two paragraphs:

I encourage everyone who is concerned about this to spend some time on Babble reading about breastfeeding — just type in “breastfeeding” in our search box at the top of the page. You will see that we have worked hard to cover the breadth of breastfeeding issues in a way that is rational, non-judgmental, and supportive of women in their efforts to breastfeed for as long as possible. Katie Allison Granju wrote a wonderful post on Babble — Confessions of a proud Breastfeeding Zealot (tongue and cheek) — — in which she concluded: the challenge is to create a supportive breastfeeding culture while being respectful of people’s individual choices. I think that’s well said; it’s what we aspire to do at Babble.

Here are some other interesting Babble takes: Madeline Holler on breastfeeding her daughter until she was almost 4 (; Tricia Grissom on why she had to switch to formula after a few months (don’t pounce on her until you read about her ordeal –; and Kate Tuttle on the growing popularity of exclusive pumping (, and Madeline again on The Case Against the Case Against Breastfeeding (

Clearly Rufus (and Babble) value the community at PhDinParenting, and clearly Babble supports moms and breastfeeding. It seems to me that his entire comment is the gold standard for how to respond when your brand is attacked.

5. Don’t participate if you don’t have the resources: Really. I honest to goodness recommend that brands stay out of social media if they aren’t going to make it part of their business. Do not set up a facebook page and then let it sit there. If you want to protect your name online buy your URL’s, take your twitter ID’s and just park them. Don’t invite a conversation you won’t show up for. People will take over your page. I think everyone remembers when Nestle set up a facebook fan page and then had no idea how to handle it. If you don’t know how to administer a fan page, if you don’t know a tweet from a grunt, do not jump into social media alone. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you need help, or deciding that you don’t have the resources to grow your brand online.

6. Just be yourself. Social media isn’t about your brand, it’s about you. If people like you they will help you. It’s just like high school, only everyone’s pretty now.

10 thoughts on “Six Tips For Brand Managers Who Might Be Afraid Of Bloggers”

  1. Jessica:

    I’m a bit baffled that you think Rufus’ response to my blog post and associated reaction by the community was the “gold standard.” If it is, I would think it is pretty easy to surpass that and move on to platinum.

    Certainly it had some good points, but it also had some bad points.

    On the positive side:
    – Babble did respond
    – It was the CEO who responded
    – He was friendly

    On the negative side:

    – His comment further demonstrated that Babble does not understand the problem with infant formula advertising and especially doesn’t understand the problem of referring moms who are having breastfeeding concerns to a feeding hotline run by an infant formula company.

    – He basically said, “thanks for complaining, but we’re not changing a damn thing.” My goal when complaining about something is never to get a pat on the head from the CEO of that company. It is to get them to change the practice that I’m advocating against.

    – His comment made it look like the left hand doesn’t talk to the right hand at Babble, since Rufus told me that he wasn’t going to change anything about the campaign, but yet the Similac ads have been removed from all sections except for the one dealing with supplementing with formula.

    To me, the “gold standard” response from a company would be an honest apology, demonstration that they now understand what their misstep was, and a clear indication of what they are doing to fix it and to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Rufus’ comment doesn’t live up to that standard.

    1. I have to politely disagree with you, Annie.

      I’ve read your take on this and while I think you make a couple of good points, I don’t think that Babble owes anyone an apology. The only “wrong” they did was running ads of a company that you don’t like/approve of, which is fine, that’s your prerogative but their advice for breastfeeding mothers is solid (I had my husband, who is a pediatrician, look at it and he agreed).

      So what if they’re sponsored by a formula company? Are they instructing women to switch to formula? No. And I just don’t think that women are going to go to the breastfeeding page, see the formula ads and immediately go out and buy it. As much as I’ve tried, I cannot see the grave harm in a formula ad.

      If they took down some of the ads, then they already did more than they really needed to. And the fact that they took the time to explain themselves, publicly and politely, shows to me that they’re a pretty reasonable company.

      1. Katie:

        With regards to their breastfeeding advice, it is high level at best. They would be better off referring people to websites like kellymom and La Leche League that go into these things in detail. Their advice covers the bare minimum basics and then tells moms to call a lactation consultant. Usually, calling a lactation consultant would be good advice, but when the page is littered with ads showing a 1-800 number promising lactation consultants, but that doesn’t really have any and is instead the feeding hotline for a formula company, then it really isn’t good advice. My problem is that they have pages on breastfeeding concerns that are littered with not just formula ads, but a hotline promising lactation consultants.

        But whether you agree or disagree with me isn’t really the point. For me to consider a comment to be the “gold standard” it would have to actually address my concerns, which this one didn’t.

        1. I get your point on gold standard, we just disagree on the sins that need to be addressed by the company, I suppose.

          Despite disagreeing, I appreciate your ability to conduct this whole situation from start to finish with civility. I wish more people could manage that.

        2. As an outsider who does tend to agree with you more often than not, I’d say that it was on topic, and it did address your points. It may not have agreed with you, or taken the direction you’d hoped for, but I do think that it was the perfect example of a timely, thoughtful response, and I think it diffused what could have been an ugly situation.

          Keep in mind that I’m glad your voice is out there, and I think it’s wonderful that you hold people’s feet to the fire. I love the discussion.

      2. But Katie, the point is not that Babble has formula ads when they claim to be breastfeeding friendly.

        The point is that these ads and Similac sponsorship are DIRECTLY LINKED to Babble’s “Breastfeeding Guide.” A) it’s a conflict of interest and B) it’s a violation of the WHO code. It’s not simply that Annie doesn’t “like” that the ads are there – it’s a question of ethics.

  2. To me, blogging is a technique not everyone possesses. A blog should be fun, informative and grab a readers attention. It is silly to set up a blog, Twitter or Facebook Page and not do anything with it. All sources are a great way to allow people to get to know you, your product and events coming up. Plus, they are perfect for gathering ideas from people on what they do and do not like. Suggestions to any company only helps them build on the product at hand. Being a business owner myself, I find honesty is the key to any company being successful.

  3. Love points #2 and #5 they go hand in hand. If you go with the #2 as your execution of a well crafted strategy and plan = #RFD, if you do not have the professional resources for #5 and you jump with #2 = #RFD = Like you said Recipe for Disaster!

    One thing people that can not do #5 and don’t know where to start is to crowd source what it would be for a particular business to be a part of a community. What would be a good role for the business? What kinds of interaction would the community participants be looking from the business?

    Great game plan for businesses in this post, thanks Jessica

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