Hard to find a better example of how NOT to communicate with your customers and the public than Netflix in its recent debacle. Besides the fact the company announced a split in services between streaming and DVD’s doubling the price or so it seems, they instantly confused and angered current and prospective customers. Then they re-named the DVD services calling it Qwikster which is a terrible name and as of this writing has no website. They lost 1-million customers almost overnight. Plus they have to wrangle the Twitter name away from someone you really don’t want to be confused with. some call it the worst product launch since New Coke. Then the CEO Reed Hastings apologized in emails to customers and in a YouTube video, which was so poorly executed, the hundreds of parodies of the apology out there now, make it almost impossible to find the real apology! Need I go on? Reviews of the PR disaster are rampant. Look it doesn’t take a genius to figure out you should get your business model figured out before you hang the laundry out in public. Get your message clear in house before you take it public. And if something goes wrong, don’t make the same mistake twice in your apology. Stop and think before you communicate, then do it clearly.
On a sunny Monday following Irene’s pummeling on the East Coast, some are saying the media hyped the storm. New York should not have shut down the subway? Reporters should not have reported ’live’ along Irene’s path? Photos should not have been uploaded on Facebook and Twitter? Some even risk their lives aboard a NOAA P-3 aircraft flying into the eye of the hurricane to give us instant reports. 20/20 hindsight writers are comparing media coverage to storms ten years ago and coming up with the media hype claim. I say the comparison is misguided. It’s called communications. And it’s better now. Smartphones and social networks bring news to each of us individually every moment, every second even when the power is out. So no wonder it may seem like hype. I say that we remember that information is power and storm warnings might just have saved lives this weekend. 37 people died with damage in 11 states during hurricane Irene. Isn’t that bad enough?
Definitely NOT! How many times do people say to me, ‘What am I doing wrong? Social Media is not attracting new clients.” Social media is important to create positioning for your company, show-off your expertise and expand your network. That’s why they’re called social networks. But if you think your revenue line is going to jump exponentially by the amount of time you spend social networking, you’re fooling yourself. Your best customers are your current customers. And good customer service, added value with expanded products or services to them, and asking for referrals is still the best way I know to grow your business.
One of the most important aspects of your marketing or PR strategy is to know your audience. You’d be surprised how many marketing directors can’t really tell you much about the target audience they’re trying to reach, which makes it hard to communicate with them. And remember, we’re not talking about a one-way marketing message anymore – it’s a two-way conversation between your company and its audience. Besides the usual demographics, where can you best reach your target audience? And even more important is to know where and how are they searching for information relevant to your products or services? That’s how your company is going to be found. And here’s the best way to be found – offer free content – that’s right FREE content! Whether it’s a blog post, a podcast, a video, a white paper or anything else, give it freely on your website, microsite, blog, and social media because that’s likely where the searches will lead. Take a look at Legal Talk Network. We developed this network focused on podcasts offering content about timely legal issues. Each podcast is hosted by a lawyer or lawyers, who discuss an important legal topic, therefore positioning themselves as experts in their particular practice area. The audience is defined and the content is professionally produced with SEO in mind. It’s a marketing strategy in the legal vertical that’s working.
Communicating gets easier and easier by the day, at least technologically. My question is how effectively and clearly are we communicating? Think about it. Predictions that sales of tablets (not just iPads) will surpass 50 Million this year, eclipsing the usage of smartphones and perhaps leaving laptops and desktops collecting dust. Quicker, smaller, faster is the order of today’s consumer demand. All of this makes it more convenient for business…and for us personally to connect with a huge network of friends and colleagues often. But is it effective communicating? How many times have you misread an email, misinterpreted a text message or simply made a bad assumption due to an instant response on whatever device you’re using? I contend that we will find new ways to make shorter communications clearer. It’ll require a learning curve for some and wisdom for others. It’ll take a re-invention of protocol and civility, the latter of which I personally advocate and it can happen none too soon for my taste.