May 10, 2009

Afraid of What, Exactly?

I constantly hear people talk about their fear of letting their employees talk to the public via social media.

As if most of them weren't talking to the public every day in the course of business, either in person or on the phone.

But the most egregious examples often happen in the mainstream media. Take the PR nightmare for Radisson and their parent company Carlson, as a result of this recent article in the New York Times. When a Times reporter questioned why he was quoted one price over the phone and given another when he showed up a couple of hours later, corporate spokespeople basically shrugged their shoulders, blamed the computer system and told the reporter that it was his tough luck and caveat emptor. All for a $20 difference in booking fee.

It's similar to the snafu K-Mart suffered when its spokespeople assured Wall Street Journal senior editor Laura Landro that she should indeed have been arrested for accidentally placing a pair of flip-flops that had fallen out of a display into the wrong box-- this after she'd just spent $800 in the store.

And those are just two examples: employees don't mess up any more or less in social media than they do in other interactions. But at least with social media, it's easier to remedy those mistakes. One more reason not to be afraid of it.

UPDATE: Fixed link to Radisson article. Thanks to CK for pointing that out.

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