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February 06, 2008
How to correct an evangelist
Maybe you're lucky enough to have customer evangelists who are passionate and spread the word about you.
But perhaps the way they describe you to others in person, or on their blog, isn't how you would say it personally, or how your company says it. It isn't factually wrong, but it's not exactly how you would say it.
a) Correct your customer evangelist publicly, such as leaving a comment on their blog?
b) Thank them in an email for the mention, and then correct them?
c) Thank them on their blog, or in an email, and say nothing about their somewhat flawed description?
d) Do or say nothing?
The correct answer, as I see it, is C.
- No matter what, thank the customer for her referral and/or passion.
- If the customer has old or incorrect information, you could ask if they're interested in an update on what's new. Better yet, invite her to join a special program for evangelists; access to an inner circle can be golden.
- If the customer's information is technically correct but incomplete, or uses her own words and not yours, get over it. A word-smithing scold is old.
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Great point, Jackie. I think this goes back to the idea of a "brand" being in the mind of your customers - not what YOU say it is.
Just because someone's not reciting your marketing copy verbatim, it doesn't mean they're in the wrong whatsoever. If that's what you mean to them, that's all that matters. Correcting someone might change their words, but it won't change their fundamental beliefs about you.
You're absolutely right, acknowledge the customer but don't try to change what they've said. PR and legal departments take far too much energy trying to perfect a brand image when they should let it be fluid. If a company wants a blogger to say things exactly the way corporate would, then put him or her on the payroll.
I agree with your point. Consumers are entitled to their own opinion regarding brands and products, as are companies. Social media is becoming a widely accepted tool for companies to promote their brands. By using this tool they must accept the risk that bloggers may provide inaccurate and potentially negative feedback. Companies must take this into consideration and continue to monitor blogs.
Due to the increased popularity of blogs and social media, I question if companies will begin to create social media departments with employees solely responsible for monitoring blogs, possibly even hiring bloggers to promote their brand. Blogs were intentionally created “by the people for the people”. Will this raise questions surrounding company ethics and the legitimacy and authenticity of social media?
how about internal evangelists? how do you correct their messaging without dampening their enthusiasm?
Sarah C., I think companies hiring bloggers to promote their brand is not the best strategy. There are ways to involve bloggers in getting feedback, in-person events, etc. that hopefully will help create an unpaid evangelist out of the blogger.
Ed, Great question about internal evangelists. I think you have to keep providing them the latest information. How about internal blogs or RSS feeds that people can subscribe to where they get the latest and greatest info. Or special fun internal events that keep people motivated and informed.
You're right. Unfortunately, direct communication is so difficult for most of us that we choose not to do anything. Not a good plan. Thanks. Jonathan at www.theproblemwithreligion.com
Excellent! As always, thanks for the great insight.
Instead of writing them an email or leaving a comment on their blog, why not respond to it on YOUR blog/site?
The evangelist would most likely be flattered that you would reference them on your own site, and you can reword what they say in your own language (with copious thanks for their input). It brings it to the next stage of the conversation, and validates the evangalist's opinion/value.
I would probably do b.5 (which sounds like your recommendation, actually). Tell them thanks and that they are awesome, then throw in a way to get updated info. I wouldn't "correct," but I wouldn't let them float around with bad information and no way to get the right information, either.
If you come at it with a genuine attitude of helpfulness, giving the info to someone who digs your info, it should be cool. Agree that being the Hall Monitor about it is right out.
I see this all the time in our new restaurant venture. We are described so differently by so many different folks, there is no possible way to control what is being said about us. To some we are a coffee house, to others we are a bar (since we focus on wine), a cafe, a sandwich shop, a bistro, a pub. The worst label is fast food, which we are emphatically not, but since people can get served rather quickly, they lump us into that category.
The food reporter in our local paper completely misrepresented us in his review of our place, but once we realized that his opinion didnt really matter as much as our loyal customers, we stopped fretting. They bring in much more business than his tepid thought about us.
As to Ed's question, I think the answer is regular updates that continually reinforce company mission, values and strategy. Those regular updates via an internal blog would probably help considerably.
Many companies have forgotten the real reason they still exist. Customers can make or break the company. Just because the customer - in this case a blogger doesn't provide the mission statement verbatim just means that the customer has now created his or her own emotional response and is more likely to help create that same emotional response or at least guide others to creating their own emotional response to the company. As Sonia Simone says above "[They] are described so differently by so many different folks, there is no possible way to control what is being said about [them]", and honestly who would want to.
I would rather have many good and differing opinions, reaching a larger and varied share of the market, about my company, than one stilted and inflexible opinion that only reaches a few people.
Thanks for the insights!
It's all about intentions: I agree that it is best to thank a customer whose intentions were honorable. The mis-information provided by a third party is not as damaging as losing a customer....That customer's good will could easily change to more harmful actions.
This is really excellent advice. It takes so much time and resources to build up the loyalty for customer evangelists to even exist, the last thing you want to do is step on their toes... just for the sake of winning the battle, but losing the war. I especially like your idea about creating the inner circle to make them feel special with an "insider's" track.
This happened to us, recently. It was an innocent remark, repeated several times - but totally off the mark. I merely signed in to just one blog it was on and thanked the writer, then corrected her. She wrote back in thanks and I feel all is well. It was a positive remark that, though partially true, did not reflect how we actually do business. Still, I was very flattered and did not want the woman writing it to feel bad - I just wanted to correct the misperception.
I have to agree with Yvonne for something that is "totally off the mark". To acknowledge a statement that's way off doesn't make sense. But a "thanks for your support" and a "by the way, we really (fill in the rest here)", makes more sense than being incorrectly positioned.