Real time crisis lesson for corporate bloggers – how NOT to handle it

June 15, 2008 at 5:10 pm Leave a comment

As anyone who’s seen the about page on my political blog will know, I’m a pretty controversial blogger.  Part of that controversy has played out in the last few weeks in the context of corporate blogging.  It’s a good lesson for corporate blog conduct.

The corporations involved are the public broadcasting entity in Cleveland, Ideastream, which is the merged entity of Cleveland’s NPR and PBS affiliate stations, and by extension, Nordson, a major manufacturing company based in Cleveland whose CEO chairs Ideastream’s board.  Long story short, I got some video of one of their top executives lying, and refusing to answer a legitimate question which was the subject of a cover story in the local alternative weekly.  Said top executive behaves incredibly unprofessionally on the video.  The video gets posted on Youtube.  In various and increasingly entertaining versions.

And here’s where the lesson begins.

Recognizing that having a top executive of a media organization, on video, responding to “tell the truth” with the answer “why,” constitutes a real threat to the company’s credibility, the company proceeds to freak.  Out.   Ideastream employees (perhaps one, perhaps more) began harrasing my blog in response, repeatedly, with lies, threats (both physical and otherwise), innuendo, and the standard stream of profanity that anonymous commenters in defense of their non-anonymous reputations will always deploy.  As I tried to identify these people, another senior executive cops to it, or uses that executive’s name to do so, and then the threats die down.

Now, I have no idea who these people really are.  However, any blogger worth their salt will have a stats package that tracks visitors, and I can say with total certainty that Ideastream staff, and staff from Nordson, have been watching my blog like a hawk ever since the episode began.  During work hours, and after hours.

How much is this costing both Ideastream and Nordson? The amount includes at least the hours senior staff at both companies have spent in meetings trying to get a handle on it, the hours spent with legal staff, the hours the perpetrating employees have spent issuing the threats, the hours spent monitoring, etc. Etc.  Etc.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  The reason one of the ongoing costs of this episode is constant monitoring of my blog is that both Ideastream, and Nordson, recognize they’ve really stepped in it.  Ideastream certainly, and perhaps also Nordson, have left themselves open to liability, both criminal and civil, the cost and litigation of which now lie solely in the hands of the blogger, me.

Any company that acts in this way in response to a blog controversy simply puts the leverage and the ultimate resolution of the issue into the hands of the blogger, who can use that leverage at his/her discretion, depending on how litigious that blogger may be and how agressive a lawyer that blogger can find to pursue his/her cause, i.e., THE TRUTH.

WHICH, IF IT HAD BEEN OFFERED VOLUNTARILY IN THE FIRST PLACE, THE CORPORATION(S) WOULD NOT NOW BE INCURRING DEFINABLE COSTS ON A DAILY BASIS, and undefinable costs into the foreseeable future.

The lesson for corporate bloggers?  Authenticity, and truth, are the currency of the new social media and blogosphere landscape.  Corporations who enter the blogosphere intending to not use this currency are bringing a knife to a gunfight.  Bloggers who care enough about your company to make it their business to learn truth about your company are not simply going to go away if you do not offer them that truth, and then proceed to threaten them.  The cost of doing your business will go up if your company acts in such a manner.

Discuss.

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B2B story on corporate blogging Facebook marketers beware. It’s two-way. And public.

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