Category Archives: blogwars

Wheels on the bus go round and round..how this blog thing works

Like most bloggers I watch my traffic and see what contributes to views. I’ve been fascinated by how long the traffic related to my posts about the cruise industry problems has continued. I haven’t blogged about Princess Cruise Lines or Louis Cruises and Sea Diamond disaster forever. And of course, these stories have long since faded from the front pages.

But, in the blog world, the stories live on. As a crisis management educator I have long warned practitioners that this is one of the unique aspects of blogwars and reputation management in the age of social media. And now I know why. Because the wheels of the bus go round and round. In other words, I looked at my blog visits and noticed that a continuous level of traffic was viewing the Sea Diamond posts and that I was getting clicks from seadiamondsurvivors.org. This is a site set up by passengers of the ship to keep pressure on Louis Cruises to make changes. My posts about this disaster are linked on the front page of that site. So, I post on a topic which draws some traffic and my post gets linked on a complaint site which draws more traffic to my site, which helps feed traffic to the complaint site.

What remains to be seen is if this kind of traffic has any impact on the policies of an organization. We’ll see if Bob Garfield’s site against Comcast has an impact. But what is clear to me is that bad news stories follow a pattern of:

– heavy mainstream media coverage–in some ways more frantic than ever because of the immediacy competition

– faster disappearance from the front page–because a story a few hours or a few days old has lost its immediacy

– much longer term online discussion after the headlines and breaking news stories have ended.

Don’t underestimate the power of the long tail of reputation management.

Comcast's blogwar signals a more frightening scenario

Comcast is deep into a blogwar (I’ve commented frequently here about the clear and present danger of blogwars to corporate and organizational reputations so review past posts here for my views on that topic–or read my book Now Is Too Late2).

This article from Bulldog Reporter about the blogwar suggests something even more frightening to me–not that I have any great love and affection for Comcast broadband as an only moderately satisfied customer myself.  (the blog is called somewhat predictably: comcastmustdie.com and the first words are I really don’t want Comcast to die(!)) What frightens me from a crisis management standpoint is a potential pattern I see developing. The blogger starting this is not some unemployed 28 year old sitting in his bedroom, cranky after a night of partying. This one was started by Bob Garfield, a highly respected writer and expert in advertising and marketing. I’ve read his stuff for years.

Note the reference in the article to Jeff Jarvis, the now extremely famous blogger who launched the Dell Hell blogwar and was at first ignored, then triumphed with significant improvements in Dell’s customer service. So, bright, entreprenuerial writers like Garfield who know the weakspots of corporate leadership, can accomplish two things at once. They can build an tremendous audience and their own celebrity by becoming the next Jeff Jarvis and get the self-actualization satisfaction that they can change the world for the good by getting Comcast to respond. Wow, that is powerful motivation. Hey, I want that attention. I want that readership. I want to go to the grave thinking I have done the world some good. I should start a blog: younamethecompanymustdie.com. I will be a hero. People will know my name. they will talk about me in the hushed tones they now reserve for Jeff Jarvis. Am I judging Garfield’s motives here? Yeh. Am I wrong? Who knows.

Do you see why this scares me? On the other hand, being a crisis management expert might be the best gig to get into these days.

Whole Foods blogging problems–the bird comes home to roost

I commented earlier (June 26) about Whole Foods and CEO John Mackey’s use of his CEO blog to attack the regulators who were taking a little less optimistic view of the proposed merger with Wild Oats than what Mackey thought appropriate. Here’s what I wrote about this clash of cultures:

What makes this interesting is again the intersection of blogging–in this case CEO blogging–on the business environment. And the clash of cultures that exist. Government regulators want you to play nice with them or else they will use the only power they really have–the power to say “no”–against you. Get pissy with them and they have ways of getting back.

Well, it looks like they found an even stronger way of getting at Mr. Mackey. Now apparently the SEC is investigating Mr. Mackey to see if he violated the law when he blogged under a pseudonym. This revelation about blogging under a different name is causing problems for him in both the blog world and the regulatory world. He violated the first principle of blogging–transparency. And, now they are looking to see if he also violated the Regulation Fair Disclosure law.

Suddenly, a CEO blogging hero, known for his openness, outspokenness and being in tune with the blog culture may be fighting for his job–and some of it for the very reasons that made him a blog hero. Hmmm, a clash of cultures can get ugly.

Media feeding frenzy vs. blog feeding frenzy–the Continental "poo flight"

At the risk of being circular, Custom Scoop’s blog commented on my blog post on Continental and added some very interesting perspectives. My focus was on the media feeding frenzy, their’s was on the blog feeding frenzy, which is in every respect more crazed, more callous, more angry, more outrageous than the worst excesses of mainstream media.

Again, this is of great importance to crisis managers and why it is imperative that blog monitoring be a part of any crisis manager’s toolkit these days. And it is important to understand that as the mainstream media continues to fight for its place in a rapidly changing public information world and its excesses become greater, those excesses will pale in comparison to what replaces it. Not more moderate approaches or more reasonable and thoughtful comment respecting people, such as the Continental employees, who are working hard every day to do a good job, but instead wild, uncontrolled anger, bitter screeds, and false accusations and information. Welcome to the new wild west of information.

"Blogwars," rumors and other dangers of the Internet

Frequent readers of this blog know that dealing with online attacks and rumors is one of my favorite topics. It appears the concern is going a little more mainstream, because here is an excellent story on the phenomenon in the Seattle Times.

Some excellent tips in this article useful to crisis managers and communicators. These include the use of  “truth filter” sites (this is what I called them in my book in 2001) such as www.snopes.com and wikipedia. Also discussed is the use of a rumor response section on a website. While there is certainly the point of not wanting to feed a rumor that may be weak or dying, in my view, more mistakes have been made in not addressing these quickly, aggressively and directly enough so they take on a life that was not necessary. “A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth.” And I’ll repeat that a few more times.

Add Apple to the list of not getting the blog world

The thing about blogging is that bloggers tend to have the last word. Lawyers don’t get that very well. And corporate leaders who let the legal brains take the lead on the blog world, are setting themselves up for some real nastiness in the blog world.

This is the message I tried to communicate about Disney as related to their legal attacks on Spocko. Apple has a history of protecting their intellectual property very aggressively–understandable given the fact their value is increasingly tied to their stunning innovations. But, you take this thinking into the blog world too far and you are going to get hammered. Blogging (and increasingly the internet) is about conversing. And when the reaction to conversation is to bring out the legal beagles, it tends to annoy those who just want to talk about things. If a conversation involves proprietary property, the polite thing to do is to make a request. Just say please. If there are competitive reasons, or the property in question can do substantial harm to the company if not protected, then say pretty please, or else. But to just jump up with the barking dogs isn’t polite, doesn’t make much sense, and will cause the kind of reaction that Apple is seeing in the blog world: see techcrunch article called Apple Bullies Bloggers Again.

Here’s the risk–Apple is riding high. Stock is skyrocketing. Innovations pile on innovations. Complete domination in key markets. And now comes the arrogance. We all like winners. We hate arrogant winners. Arrogant winners become losers. And we become glad. Pride goeth before the fall. And all this thinking just because they let loose some eager lawyers to beat up on bloggers. Apple, wise up.

Straight talking about crisis learnings–from Ford

This article from Daily Dog contains a summary and overview of the crisis experience of the top crisis communicator for Ford during Firestone crisis of 2000-2001. This is some of the best stuff I’ve read on crisis communciations in the last while–it is very real, very honest and hits the key points. Jon Harmon, Director of Communication Strategy for Ford, learned the lessons well and communicates them simply and powerfully.

In case you don’t follow the link and read the whole story (which I highly recommend) here are a few salient points:

On Planning:

It all comes down to readiness—get your crisis plans ready in advance. Don’t wait for a recall to happen. First, identify the PR people and outward facing organizations you have to work with. Get the necessary resources aligned. Meet now to do that. Part of the agenda should be to work through the possible contingencies, including recalls and other possibilities. Conduct a crisis audit and game this out in advance. Have a live drill where you go through something like this with your frontline people—and get your policies and responsibilities worked out on paper now. Then, repeat it periodically.

Impact of bloggers and New Media:

The next big crisis or time something like this happens, the agitators will work the news cycle as usual—but they will also include New Media, CGM [consumer generated media], video and blogs. It’ll be a whole different kind of whirlwind for corporations to combat. I think that, unfortunately, most corporations will be fundamentally unprepared for this. This is an era where people, bloggers included, can use New Media to drive the news cycle in a sophisticated manner.

On opponents and the need for speed:

What was different was that the agitators, the plaintiff attorneys, had become very media savvy. They were driving the news cycle every day. The news cycle is shorter and the hole has got to be filled. It creates a real frenzy. In this case, there was litigation in play. So they fed the story bit by bit instead of getting it all out at once. Specifically, they had documents from Ford and Firestone and would release a new one every day. They’d call up a major news organization and tell them about this damning document—and then fax it to them.

Summary:

Also, realize, as I said earlier, that you’ll have to react on the fly—no matter how thorough your plans look. Then realize that you have to communicate continually during crises.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, I have to say that these are among the key points that I wrote about in Now Is Too Late and Now Is Too Late2. These are also the key points that lay behind the creation of the PIER technology. It’s is just great having someone like Mr. Harmon help confirm the essential elements that those in crisis management and crisis communication need to understand.

Disney and Media Critic Spocko sparring

There are various ways that companies and organizations are dealing with blog wars and online critics. One of them is legal. And a major legal tool is copyright infringement. I am aware of companies using violations of copyrights to try to control or limit what bloggers are saying about them. Disney is using the posting of audio files from an ABC Radio owned radio show as a basis for shutting down a media critic’s site (spocko) that is apparently causing them some damage.

This story provides the details. Indeed, go to Spocko’s blog and you get an error message.

My question is this–is wielding the heavy legal hand effective in the blog world? This is a pretty extreme case and there is no question that companies, artists and individuals need to work very hard to protect their intellectual property in the wild lawless internet land. But the purpose here is clearly not to protect valued intellectual property. It is to staunch the flow of ad dollars resulting from Spockos attacks and efforts to stop advertisers from supporting right wing messages he hates.

The blog world in general does not look kindly on this strategy. It will be interesting to see the comments about Disney’s heavy legal hand. I suspect most bloggers will be rooting for Spocko. And in that is the lesson for you or others who may be heavily engaged in your own reputation blog war.

California Supreme Court Protects Websites from Libel

I just posted about how sites like MySpace and YouTube are being held responsible for whether someone posts copyrighted material they don’t own or control. Now, here comes a ruling in the opposite direction. The California Supreme Court decided yesterday that websites can’t be held liable for libelous statements published on their sites.

It’s a difficult question and the dilemma faced by the jurists is reflected in these comments: “The prospect of blanket immunity for those who intentionally redistribute defamatory statements on the Internet has disturbing implications,” Associate Justice Carol A. Corrigan wrote in the majority opinion. “Nevertheless … statutory immunity serves to protect online freedom of expression and to encourage self-regulation, as Congress intended.”

Well, this is California. How I interpret it is that the online culture of free expression overrides the potential damage to individuals when websites publish information they know is libelous. This is very good news for the dedicated reputation terrorist and quite bad news for those involved in blogwars who are hoping for some protection against the most outrageous lies and accusations. My sense is a balance needs to be struck–and this one doesn’t quite do it.

The pressure to police users–a blogwars update

A growing issue for companies and organizations involved in a “blogwar,” is the posting of copyrighted content on places like YouTube. Here’s the scenario. Your company produces ads or promotional videos which the critics take, distort, turn into parodies, comment on, or in other ways attempt to turn against you. Then they post it on sites like YouTube, GoogleVideo, MySpace, etc.

If your company is in this situation, you have an interesting dilemma. Use the copyright laws to require your critics to take the offending post down? You can do that, but you face the very likely attack in the blogosphere of “trying to control content and end debate.” It runs counter to the blog values that says anyone should be able to say anything about anyone else and any for profit entity that tries to protect itself is not transparent and is trying to hide something.  So the policy seems to be that reserve the big legal hammers for only the most egregious violations of copyrighted content and have a pretty high level of tolerance for most of the garbage that gets thrown out there.

Now some help on this issue is coming from content producers who have a strong financial interest in protecting their copyrights. We noticed lately how YouTube had beefed up their requirements for the person posting content to make certain that they owned the copyright or had permission from the copyright owner before posting anything to YouTube. Clearly a defensive measure.

Now comes a lawsuit by Universal Music Group against MySpace for failing to police MySpace users against posting copyrighted material (music in this case) which they don’t own. Look to see MySpace beefing up its policies in order to protect itself. Clearly YouTube and MySpace don’t believe they are in a position to take no responsibility for the copyright issues. And since they are the big target, it means that they will work harder to protect themselves against those who misuse copyrighted material. And that’s good news for those in “blogwars.”