If mainstream media is not talking about your company, but customers, employees and partners are writing about you online, will that help move the needle on coverage? One of the first questions a reporter asks is whether they can speak with a customer.
In the age of Google, you should be less worried about the traffic that comes to certain pages of your site and pay more attention to whether people are talking about you or not. All those instances create a searchable impression - your online footprint and reputation.
We know that online evidence matters even if your customers don't buy from you online. Especially if you're in a complex B2B space, buyers will Google what you do. They will research options to gain a better understanding of what they think they need before the clock gets ticking in a consulting situation, for example.
Today it's not an all-or-nothing proposition between your company site and sites hosted by communities, forums, and yes, mainstream media. I'm seeing a very good evolution of media online. Where mainstream media may not have been interested in what you can teach and share, you can now do that yourself for those who are interested in what you have. Many call it the Long Tail, after the work by Chris Anderson. Teaching and sharing would be an excellent use of a corporate blog, for example.
Having talked about the reading habits of mainstream media, and observed how they, too are learning to do more with less, these ideas might help you and media both find reasons to connect. You cannot really buy reputation these days, if you ever could before.
On the topic of reputation, there are a couple of issues to consider online.
People are not talking about you
You probably have a purpose-idea problem. Maybe your company culture, how you deliver what you do, the impression of dealing with you needs attention.
Yet another explanation is that the expectation you create in the marketplace does not match the experience of your product or service. Said another way, your product or service may not be worth talking about.
There is also another option - people do not know how to talk about your product or service. It's too complex, or they don't understand what you do and how it applies to them from the way you talk about it. The way to solve this problem is to get your best people who can teach it simply:
- Talk to the media about the challenges and issues your customers face. Frame the conversation in the broader context of marketplace conditions and future trends.
- Write about it on your corporate blog to educate customers directly. Use kitchen images where possible to illustrate scale - in a regulatory situation, for example, explain how you would need to do this thousands of times in one day for hundreds of years to reach level "x" of something.
People need to talk about themselves
Let's face it, in this new media environment everyone is a celebrity in the making. Your customers and buyers may want to talk about how they use your products and services - what they really want to talk about is themselves in the act of using a gadget.
Think about it, we all identify ourselves with what we drive, what we eat, where we live, etc. These items and the corresponding communities provide a context for our existence. That is what brands capitalize on - the idea that you are a BMW-type person, for instance.
Another reason why people would need to talk about themselves is to fill a need to be heard. In a customer service and support kind of way, but also because they want to contribute to how you develop the product or service to fit their wants more closely. In that case, you solve the problem by turning the tables on conversation.
- Engage single journalists and reporters on the current trends that interest them personally. When many of them are migrating on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace in increasing numbers, now you have a more direct way to develop relationships.
- Build or join a community or a vehicle for customers to take center stage. A company blog can also become a community, with a lot of work and generous giving on your part. Why make the effort? Because you will have referenceable material. And you could help show journalists what people are interested in discussing.
Today, the media itself is in a constant state of reinvention. From mere channels and distribution systems, with the Web as the distribution, it's becoming much more about people - who you follow as a journalist is becoming much more important than where she works.
Because of this need to fill the 24/7 news cycle with content that is unique and different, learning how to connect, write and build relationships is as important as knowing how to write for the potential retweet, blog post, sound byte and wall message.
The conversation is the media pitch. News organizations and public relations are moving closer together. Have you integrated some of these ideas in the way you build news on your company, product or service?
[Digital Media Arts lab by laffy4k]