Marketing has gotten a bad reputation through the years because truth has been sacrificed for marketing-speak. One of the things that is changing that is new media, i.e. the Web and social media. It used to be that a company could constantly control the message. That is, they could largely ensure that much of what was being said about the company was well thought out, deliberate, carefully crafted and positive. Testimonials from happy customers were carefully selected (or simply written) by marketers to reflect most positively upon the company and heralded on brochures and websites as being reflective of the company's performance. Marketers have ALWAYS wanted to control the messaging and reputation of the company. That was their job.
Today, the good, the bad, and the ugly about your company will eventually be known by everyone. The Web and social media have provided a platform through which anyone who wants to talk about your company—report a problem, say nice things, leave a balanced review, or simply rant—can do so. And search engine technology makes it very easy for the public to find ALL OF THIS! The marketer, who has always been able to control the message suddenly finds him/herself on the defense.
In today's post Internet-explosion world, companies that do not offer a quality product or service with credibility and integrity are likely to have short lives, regardless of how much money they raise through investors. That's not to say that every company must be perfect. Certainly we make plenty of mistakes. The real challenge of today's companies is to maintain credibility in the face of increasing business transparency. I believe that companies' efforts to control the message are not only largely futile, but counterproductive. A better approach is to be open and transparent—do all you can to provide a quality and reliable product or service, and let consumers decide your company's fate (the fact is, they are going to anyway!). Use new media to learn and grow. Listen to what the customers are saying! If someone says something negative about your company, RESPOND... but do so with honesty, humility and grace. If your company has performed admirably, the public will see that. If your company has performed poorly, confess it quickly, and do all you can to demonstrate what you intend to or have already done to resolve it. When the public sees that, you gain credibility... and new customers. There's no getting around it: some of your customers will prove to be simply negative folks who live their lives as victims and whiners. But other consumers will see right through that, especially if you behave honestly. Reasonable people do not expect perfection. They expect integrity.
We ALL live in glass houses these days, and that's only going to become more and more true as the new media technology advances. Those companies that choose to try to control the message will be found out. Those that do all they can to be open and transparent will be the big winners... provided they are willing to constantly improve.