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Personal Branding and Corporate Politicians

Many corporate executives in their eagerness to get on the Web 2.0 bandwagon remind me of waffling politicians. Sure they are beginning to spout the right lingo but when it comes to follow through, beware.

Many corporate executives in their eagerness to get on the Web 2.0 bandwagon remind me of waffling politicians. Sure they are beginning to spout the right lingo but when it comes to follow through, beware.

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The latest case in point is Hewlett Packard. Here is the company’s SVP and CMO Mike Mendenhall speaking at the recent Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA)annual Masters of Marketing Conference. Thanks to Media Post’s Karl Greenberg for capturing the conversation:

“‘How do we engage customers while effectively controlling brand reputation?’” asked Mendenhall at the ANA meeting. “Marketers must not only monitor blogs and news sites constantly, he says–they need to go one step further. ‘You want to look at building your own forums to engage customers and critics who are one and the same. You can’t afford to miss it.’”

Sounds great, right? Sorry, Mr. Mendenahall. At least in this customer’s case, you’re falling far short. A few weeks ago I blogged about your company, directly emailed your CEO and pasted my blog feed on Twitter and Facebook about the seemingly never ending problems I have experienced – and am still experiencing –with your customer service. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for someone to reach out to me. And here I am blogging for a second time about your company when if someone took a moment to respond, HP instead could have been singled out as an exemplar of social media engagement, not a ne’re-do-well.

What did I get for my troubles? Not a lot. Finally, after a number of emails back and forth with an HP PR person, I got a call back from someone in corporate support who referred me to someone else. That person attempted to solve my printer and desktop problems but couldn’t fix the printer. He assured me someone in the printer department would get back to me. That was four days ago. And I’m still waiting. And now four weeks, count them four weeks, my problem still has not been corrected. So much for trying to get the attention of HP via social media.

Contrast that with the online shoe powerhouse Zappos, recently selected by Ad Age as a marketer of the year. Awhile back I blogged about Zapos and seemingly one second after I posted, the CEO of Zappos was following me on Twitter. Now, the CEO himself may not be personally following me but someone on his staff at least has the smarts to monitor what is being said about the company.

Despite all the problems with HP, which I’m sure will eventually find its footing, the company is still further along than totally clueless 1and1. Every other day I receive a survey form asking me to rate the Internet hosting company’s customer service. I sometimes think these forms are generated to create busywork for someone since I have rarely (Lexus being one exception) had a company contact me in response to anything I wrote. I rapped 1and1 on its survey since my email has not worked properly since I transferred my domain to its servers a few months ago. What is the response to my survey answers? A few days later I receive another survey asking for my opinion.

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Meanwhile, is the company monitoring cyberspace? Type into Google corporate address of 1and1 and a blog appears detailing people’s negative experiences (including mine) with the company. Has anyone received a response? You know the answer to that. Don’t bother emaling the company’s complaint department at complaints@1and1.com. I’ve tried several times and never received the courtesy of a response.

Now, I don’t mean to unfairly single out these companies. I’m sure many others are doing the same things if not worse. Somehow most companies haven’t realized that instead of simply pouring money into advertising they should be pouring money into what’s happening on the ground, day-to-day in consumers’ lives. With the Internet’s democratization of the consumer, companies can no longer afford to spout the lingo without following through. Now let’s see if anyone is reading this! I’d love to hear your experiences. What do you think?

Wendy Marx, PR and Personal Branding Specialist, Marx Communications

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About the author

Wendy Marx is President of Marx Communications, an award-winning boutique B2B Public Relations agency known for turning companies and executives, including start-ups, into thought leaders. Follow her on Twitter @wendymarx and on Google+ @ plus.google.com/+wendymarx.

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