This post is part of a 95 post series discussing the 95 theses of the Cluetrain Manifesto as they relate to business in 2009. Read more about the series in the introduction post. And check out the rest of the series!
Thesis #26: Public Relations does not relate to the public. Companies are deeply afraid of their markets.
In the last post, we talked about how Yelp empowers Carrie Estok to effectively communicate with their users. The second takeaway from the conversation I had with Carrie and Phil relates to this thesis, and has to do with companies that get reviewed on Yelp.
At the end of the day, there are two kinds of reviews on Yelp: positive and negative. What business doesn’t want to hear positive reviews from their customers? The problem is, that’s the only kind of review that many businesses want to hear. There’s been lots of talk about businesses negatively reviewed on Yelp threatening to sue for defamation.
Now, I see where these businesses are coming from. And considering Penny Arcade’s “Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory“, malicious defamation certainly increases in probability online. But Yelp is a community first. And when you’ve got a community contributing, there are checks and balances, and thoee sorts of intentionally malicious reviewers tend to be filtered out.
But here’s the kicker: if someone was poorly reviewing your business, offline, they’d be talking smack and you’d have no idea about it.
Yelp is providing a chance for users to talk about your business, and for you, as the business owners, to do something about it! For free! Stop being a knucklehead and realize how valuable that is for you!
Companies are petrified of what their customers have to say about them. The attitude of “What happens when someone says something bad about me online” is ridiculous. This should not be your cue to call out the legal team. It should be your cue to reflect, and go “hm, maybe they’re right. Let’s see if we can show ‘em what we’ve got”. And then, with the help of someone like Carrie, relate to that very real person having that very real problem.
You’ll never satisfy everyone, but that’s not the point. Carrie had some really great insight: the companies she’s made contact with that got negative reviews and at least tried to improve, won her (and other community members’) respect. Even if the service didn’t really improve, their ability to come down from their Ivory Tower, take criticism constructively, and at least recognize that there could be an issue and make an attempt to correct it is far better than ignoring the problem.
Coming down from your Ivory Tower to build relationships means letting down your guard, and being prepared to hear the things that you couldn’t from all the way up there.
Some will be good.
Some will be bad.
With the appropriate perspective, it’s all valuable.
You have nothing to be afraid of besides your own ignorance of what’s being talked about inside your marketplace.
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