Brian Barry of the Economist penned a nice piece called the “The blog in the corporate machine.” (Warning/disclosure: I was quoted in this story.) It covers how bloggers can be vicious, but also how they can help companies avert disaster. The former is more familiar, as Barry cites popular case studies including the Kryptonite bike-lock video and HackingNetflix.com. But the latter – aversion – is a topic which marketers need to think a lot more about. He touches on a few of the key benefits of studying consumer-generated media (such as blogs) to help manage brand reputation:
- Helping managers know when not to over-react.
- Warning of adverse events so a company can act before a problem becomes a crisis.
- Benchmarking and tracking the seriousness of bad news as it unfolds.
Steve Rubel also added to this story, suggesting that companies incorporate blogs into their crisis-management plan:
Companies should also have a ready-made plan for influencing bloggers if a crisis does occur…He recommends setting up a “lockbox blog” that is hidden behind an internet firewall, but can be made visible to the public at short notice. Any websites or video clips that companies might want to direct the public to in an emergency, for example, could be prepared in advance. Then, he likes to tell clients: “in case of emergency, break glass and blog.”
A crisis plan should also consider leveraging a company’s existing cadre of high-profile bloggers – especially that of a CEO. Blogging doesn’t make sense for every CEO – or company – but this is one argument for it: building conversation equity now can be valuable on an unforeseen rainy day.