Traditionally, public relations agencies have considered any press good publicity. However, in this day and age of new media, that standard has changed. Sam Ford of Peppercom calls the traditional viewpoint “a major mistake.”
In an interview with Abby Johnson at SXSW, Ford explains that communicators should think qualitatively in terms of what people are saying, instead of quantitatively. In addition, now as brands are getting more involved in social media, they need to realize that they might not like the feedback they receive.
If you are not ready to hear honest feedback, then maybe new media is not the place for you. Ford says, “Engagement only works if you’re prepared to engage on your side as much as you’re expecting the audience to engage.”
He also points out the harm in a brand “over-promising” its ability to engage if it cannot. Unfortunately, many Web 2.0 business models are built off of strategies for engaging the audience, but if the brand is not providing anything in return, it is essentially asking for unpaid labor to build its business.
Once a brand is involved and is ready to engage, Ford says it automatically thinks that the only way it can react to negativity is by responding. Instead of focusing on what to say next, Ford suggests that brands find solutions for the real problems. He said hearing is not listening.
If a brand wants to produce positive press, a brand should send a message that is additional material for the conversation the audience is already having. In the end, this will make the message spreadable.
Are you actively engaging your audience and truly listening?