Listening to your customers is the first order of business for companies that want to succeed in social media. But, there’s a fine line between acknowledging critics and letting the fear of criticism fuel critically important business decisions.
First it was Gap that ditched its new logo after a pint-sized and relentless group made fun of it via social networks. Now, the Washington Post has banned reporters from tweeting with critics after one of its editorials drew Twitter fire from GLAAD, a gay activist group.
Washington Post Bans Reporters from Tweeting with Critics
As reported in Mashable, the Washington Post ran an editorial by a group claiming that homosexuality is a mental health issue. (As an aside, I couldn’t disagree more).
GLAAD complained to the Post via Twitter and one of their reporters responded that the paper was simply offering both sides of the debate. The reporter was following the Washington Post’s social media policy that states, “Be sure that your pattern of use does not suggest, for example, that you are interested only in people with one particular view of a topic or issue.”
After the response angered GLAAD further, the Washington Post took the knee-jerk response of banning all reporters from responding to critics via Twitter using Post-branded accounts or their personal accounts.
In my opinion, rather than making the rush decision to cut off dialogue with all the newspaper’s critics based on one interaction, the paper should have invited GLAAD to write a rebuttal column. This gesture would have demonstrated that the Washington Post is truly interested in hearing both sides, not just in the paper, but via social networks as well.
Companies can’t let outside criticism from members of social media shake them at their core and dictate their strategic direction. If they do, they look hollow, weak and capricious. Yes, it’s important to acknowledge critics, but companies shouldn’t make long-term decisions based on fleeting feedback.
In the era of social media, open ears are important, but so are a thick skin and a sound mind. It’s important to take the time to develop a communications strategy that makes sense and positions the company as a leader, not a brand being led around by the nose.
Amy Dean, president of Keyword Communication, is a passionate public relations strategist with over 10 years of experience helping organizations shape their messages and showcase their expertise. She counsels companies on using traditional and social channels to be real and relevant communicators with vision, courage and consistency.
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