Marketers Need To Heed Negative Buzz
"In a world where word of mouth is on steroids, you need to focus just as much on the negative," said panelist Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing officer for Nielsen BuzzMetrics. "Companies need to become faster at reacting to negative buzz." Blackshaw characterized most companies as "ill-equipped" to respond to the quick-acting blogosphere, which can turn out negative buzz at a prodigious rate.
Jim Nail, chief strategic and marketing officer for buzz-measurement firm Cymfony, agreed--citing the example of DuPont's Teflon, which has been under fire in recent weeks because a chemical involved in its creation has possible carcinogenic properties. DuPont purchased search keywords both on its own name and on words with negative connotations, like "Teflon cancer," in order to direct searchers to a page giving the company line on the current safety concerns.
However, DuPont's initial strategy was only partially successful, Nail said; although consumers were getting access to information and discussing the research in-depth, the tone of the buzz was still mainly negative. Nail suggested that to reverse that trend, the company could analyze the online word-of-mouth for the messages that are resonating, and engage directly with influential consumer bloggers in their space.
Many companies are reluctant to do what DuPont did, and look to purchase only positive keywords on their brands, even to deal with a crisis situation--although negative keywords can often be had at bargain-basement prices and are more likely to be searched for in the event of a wave of negative buzz, panelists said. "There may be a whole other zone of value you can bring your client," Blackshaw said.
Nail said by getting information out about possible safety problems, companies can build their brand reputation. "If you handle a negative well, you generate a lot of loyalty," he said.