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Social Media and Good Public Relations

ted-saulby Ted Saul


The use of social media can provide outlets for not only the sharing of information but also opinions and news about a company.  Blogs for example allow someone to quickly and easily share a compliment or complaint regarding a product or service.  A tweet on Twitter can reach hundreds and thousands of readers almost immediately.    The down side is that your business can become the target of negative news.  The question is should you ignore or respond to online comments?


Here are two examples with different approaches and results to negative publicity.  In 2005, Sony BMG came under fire from a blogger regarding the behavior of their Digital Rights Management software (DRM).  The reaction from the social community was swift and overwhelming.   Online chatter began showing up about the use and quality of the software along with potential security issues.  DRM posters clearly made it known that they were not happy.  Sony was socially silent however choosing to eventually institute an exchange program for the software through a series of one-way communications.  The damage had been done however and the controversy ended up with a class action lawsuit.  One can only guess what might have happened if early on in the crisis a representative from Sony had joined the conversations on the initial blog offering to research the issue and develop a solution.


When Nikon introduced their D200 Model Camera, the anticipation and demand skyrocketed.  Initial production was soon consumed by the big box stores leaving on-line distributors such as B&H without inventory.  When orders were placed at the popular B&H website, customers found themselves on a waiting list and a charge on their credit card.  Inquires to B&H were referred to their disputed charge process causing a severe backlash on forums and the feeling B&H was holding their money hostage.  Unlike Sony, B&H chose to respond quickly and decisively in a two-way online dialog.  They apologized for their poor handling of the situation and made a promise to make it right.  By participating in the forum conversations, B&H was able to change the tone of the problem and turn their reputation back to a positive one.  One impressed blogger speaking of B&H stated “I can’t think of someone of power with any other business who engages in public discussions of store issues and products”.


Some companies are now using tracking software to see when and where their names are mentioned on the Internet.  The applications search for Tweets and Facebook comments using keywords to decide whether or not it’s positive or negative.  Negative comments can then be appraised individually and action plan developed to reach a satisfactory solution.  Using social media is a great place to connect with your customers and potential customers.  It’s also where misunderstandings and perceptions can be turned around to change your company’s image.  Your public relations strategy will want to include responding to social media.

Ted Saul is a business coach and project manager who mission is to help start-ups and small business develop plans and processes for growth.  He can be reached at, TWS787 and LinkedIn.