So today I saw the PR Week article: and immediately had a facepalm moment. It really does amaze me the amount of people who work for massive brands and have influence over customer communication/marketing who seem to think that people will only engage with their brand in the ways set out by the management or project planning team. I heard something once and can’t remember the source, however it stuck with me: You are not what you say your brand is; you are what the general public says your brand is.

Luckily the brands I work with at the moment are very switched on, but this story riled me today because I’ve seen this ‘they’ll have to do it this way if they want to speak to us’ and ‘that’s the best way for US to deal with the customer’ approach previously. I’ve been in the room with one of these people who wouldn’t listen to my very valid ‘but the customer simply won’t do that – it will annoy them and they will just leave the site’ concern. It was ignored and the project was rolled out. Surprise surprise, things didn’t go well down the line.

Now I wouldn’t claim to be a leading expert in marketing and communications, especially as there are always things to learn and new ways of being creative, but I’ve been in customer service roles for 12 years, worked with a lot of companies in that time and dealt with a ridiculous amount of customers and clients. I’ve also seen and been involved with a lot of marketing plans over the past 5 years, completed a Psychology degree and I have also been a customer myself, so I’d like to think I’ve got a handle on customer relations and behaviour.

The one major thing I’ve learned (and this shouldn’t come as a surprise to most people) is that people WILL talk about the companies they come into contact with (especially if they have a bad experience) and people WILL choose the avenue that is most convenient for them to get in touch. If you do not provide a range of options for contact and make doing business with your company easy, people will choose your competitor who does. You cannot stop this. And you cannot control this.

You also cannot say that you aren’t doing social media. Sorry to say it, but if you are a company that provides a product or service (I think that covers most companies!) then your customers are likely to be doing social media, and therefore so are you if they mention you.

If not dealt with correctly, complaints can escalate and let’s be honest, people love a good complaint and a good gossip, as Mr Kiely from Ryanair clearly knows – ‘We find that if an issue breaks in one country, within a matter of hours or days it has spread across Europe,’ he said. ‘It is important to nip those in the bud.’ – Sorry love, but simply denying social media as a channel is not nipping things in the bud. How risky.

To illustrate, I tweeted about the article above and one of the comments I received back was this:

I agree.