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Innovation: Best Buy Apologizes for Cease and Desist to Laughing Squid

Scott Beale was having a regular day on Tuesday December 11. His blog, Laughing Squid, was being profiled in a San Francisco publication. Life was good. Then he announced on his Twitter stream that he had just received an early holiday gift from Best Buy. Except for this was not really a welcome one — a “cease and desist” letter.

Scott Beale was having a regular day on Tuesday December 11. His blog, Laughing Squid, was being profiled in a San Francisco publication. Life was good. Then he announced on his Twitter stream that he had just received an early holiday gift from Best Buy. Except for this was not really a welcome one — a “cease and desist” letter.

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Apparently the Best Buy legal department took notice of some coverage Scott was running on another blog at Laughing Squid. Improv Everywhere selling Best Buy blue polo shirts as inspired by a stunt the group ran at a Best Buy store. After talking with his lawyer, Scott decided to publish the cease and desist letter on his blog.

Imagine yourself in his shoes. You were having a perfectly regular day and here pops an official-looking letter filled with legal language. That is enough to send your heart rate up and drain your blood to the extremities. What do you do? I suspect you would not act too differently from Scott. Maybe you pick up the phone and call your most trusted friend or adviser, especially if she happens to be a lawyer. Then you proceed to talk to several other people in your family and community.

Scott decided to blog and Twitter about it. He was reporting on something on his blog, he was not the originator of the stunt, nor the creator of the new polo shirt line and logo. Being a publisher probably taught Scott a thing or two about communications as his next action was to approach the lawyer who sent the letter. Coming up empty handed, he then gave the Best Buy corporate PR department a try.

Good thing that he did. As the cease and desist letter was making its way on top of Digg with more than 100,000 views in less than 24 hours, the corporate PR folks were promising to look into the situation. Five hours after that promise, Scott received a letter of apology from Best Buy. Then a PR person called to follow up and close the loop.

I agree with Scott, they handled the matter really well, and swiftly. Luck was on his side in the selection of a data center as well. If Rackspace is to live up to its reputation of Fanatical SupportTM, Scott should be in good hands. The story is that we were literally following the events live on Scott’s Twitter stream, as you can see at my blog.

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Customers today have a wider reach than they ever had:

– global networks — Scott’s Twitter stream reaches 2,948 people
– publishing tools — blogs, Twitter, Facebook accounts, etc.
– influencing power — where before customers were passive leads, today they are active community members who gain credibility and the ear of their peers through participation

All these tools are available to individuals and companies alike. In the end, it’s individuals who make the decisions — Scott reported the matter fairly, and Best Buy corporate PR lived up to their promises.

It’s tempting to use the power we have as a weapon. Yet, it is much more productive to use it to start real conversations. It is precisely this implied power that customers have to speak out and broadcast that is finally teaching companies to do the right thing.

Valeria Maltoni • Conversation Agent • Philadelphia, PA • www.conversationagent.com

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