What social media cannot do

One day (but not today), I may muster the nerve to say frankly to a client, “Yes. I see your problem.  And based on my assessment of your situation, in my expert opinion, you are getting just what you deserve.”

Okay, I know I will never really say that, even though I may think it!

The majority of my clients have excellent reputations.  But I have also consulted with a handful of companies and nonprofits that

  • Got dozens of negative customer reviews — and deserved them…
  • Didn’t spend a dime on marketing — and their competitors took over their market….
  • Were justly exposed by the news media for propagating pseudo-science…
  • Failed to tell their side of the story online — which was weak at best — and lost their case with the American public…

In these and other cases, I came to see a pattern.  In many cases, the clients were at first quite successful and earned great revenues or obtained significant exposure or credibility.  Perhaps they became over-confident.  They then slipped on quality, or some other controllable factor, and things began to slide downward precipitously for them.  After a period of denial, panic set in.  The clients felt like they were victims, and that everyone was being unfair to them.  Although they were desperate, they did not see their role in creating the problem.  They invariably thought that becoming involved with social media would solve everything.  They seemed reluctant to make real changes in their operations to address their challenges.  And they were not ready to spend very much money.

I don’t take on a job if I feel I can’t make a positive difference.  After all, there are public relations strategies you can execute to build good will for a company.  There are a half-dozen things you can try to restore a reputation online.  But the cold fact is — I can’t believe I’m admitting this! — marketing cannot do everything.  Social media is not magic.  If there are legitimate issues regarding health or safety, quality, security, or reputation, those are the problems that have to be fixed first.  And fixing those problems requires dedicating increased resources and having a mindset of acceptance, responsibility, and commitment.

Even then, with the best marketing strategy, it may not be enough to save a business or restore a nonprofit’s reputation.  We live in a transparent society of informed consumers.  There are some things a company cannot bounce back from.

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About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a public relations and marketing consultant, and owns Fletcher Prince (www.FletcherPrince.com). Follow Mary on Twitter @FletcherPrince.

Posted on March 24, 2011, in Social Media Tips and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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