Q & A on blogger outreach and engagement

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My colleague Heidi Sullivan and I did a free Cision Social Media Webinar last week entitled Social Media 101, and we received more great questions than we could answer about engaging in social media on behalf of a company, organization or brand. In an occasional series of posts, we’ll be answering some of those questions over the coming weeks.

Steve: If a company sees erroneous information about their product in a blog post or online conversation, should they post the right info? And if so, should they identify themselves as being from the company?

Jay: While you should always correct misperceptions about your product if they are matters of publicly available information, you can’t be held hostage by the call to  transparency. If the misinformation provided is regarding something proprietary or otherwise sensitive, you simply need to establish with the person who shares that erroneous information that you are indeed listening, and offer to help if they have questions about your product. You need to try to be as open and forthcoming as you can, but that doesn’t mean you have to give away trade secrets. As for the second part of the question, always clearly identify yourself and your company on any blog or social network in which you engage.

Rebecca: What is the best way to approach a blog or site about content submission? Media releases?

Jay: We always advise our clients that the fundamentals of dealing with bloggers are the same as traditional media: respect their preferences, and make sure the releases you’re submitting are truly relevant to their coverage area. You’ll get much further with a blogger if you take the time to read their work and comment on blog posts that interest you. Online as offline, relationships are built in good conversation; now those conversations are taking place publicly and inviting commentary from observers. Many bloggers I talk to are happy to be pitched by e-mail as long as it’s a personal outreach and relevant to the topics about which they blog.

David: What are some guidelines for dealing with negative content about your company or institution that might appear on social media sites?

Jay: The notion of “negative content” encompasses a lot of very unique types of messages. Taken together they’re not shades of gray but varied as the colors of the rainbow and require equally diverse responses. Many companies perceive all unflattering comments discussing their quality, prices, service and financial performance as challenges, or affronts, when in fact most are just honest observations from bloggers and social Web users with no great vendetta against these companies or their brands. It’s important to avoid being overly defensive in your response, but that doesn’t mean you have to answer questions you’d rather not for competitive, financial or legal reasons. Let them know you’re listening and you’re available for more details about your products. Even those people who are rude and nasty in their comments can sometimes provide insights into opportunities for improvement, but each situation requires its own approach. Customer service professionals know that a person who’s genuinely frustrated needs a different response someone who merely feels confused, or someone with an axe to grind, or someone who just wanted to have their voice heard.

More info on upcoming social media webinars here.

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