First up, Badges…
Like many in the PR/Communications Web 2.0 space, I’ve become a little tired of the anti-PR meme that seems to rear its ugly head every so often. I’ve even started to wonder if it’s become a way for bloggers to get traffic to their sites when things start to dip, because those of us who are active in this space see these posts and respond with a mea culpa for those in the PR space who “don’t get it” and then point out that there are many who do get it. An anti-PR post is almost guaranteed to get attention and comments. The number one topic: dreadful pitches. And there are a lot, I agree. It’s just that, well, I’m tiring of it, because as has been pointed out the only real movement I’ve seen to correct this problem is coming on behalf of the PR community. Anti-PR bloggers just want to publish the email addresses of those who have transgressed, and do little else. I equate this with those who constantly complain about governance and yet don’t vote.
Someone has finally suggested something to do about it. Todd Defren over at PR Squared has suggested an idea that if it catches on, could deprive many bloggers their requisite “PR people suck” posts. He’s suggested displaying badges on a blog, making it clear as to whether or not PR pitches are welcome, unwelcome, or might be welcome. He even went so far as to have the “in-house graphics whiz” at SHIFT mock up some badges. The whole post and the comments are worth reading.
Next up, franchises and social media…
Late this morning, I started seeing a lot of discussion in my Twitter stream about UHaul, as David Alston of Radian6 tweeted that his wife had received some pretty bad customer service. Having been through 18 moves in my 38 years, I can assure you I have some choice moving stories too, from a variety of carriers. (My favorite was the mother/son packing team that fought the entire day as they packed my things, culminating in the disclosure that the son just got out of juvenile detention. Ah, moving, how I loathe thee.)
The exchange on Twitter yielded a number of people chiming in with their horror stories about UHaul, and of course Consumerist has quite a few posts concerning the company too.
Where my mind wandered was to the issue of franchises–how does a brand manage franchises in an era of social media? I have no idea what the specifics are of any of these situations with UHaul, but it is my understanding that some UHaul locations are franchises, others are corporate-owned. So what happens when a franchise is causing the problems? If these are considered individually owned and operated businesses, how much control (see, there’s that word again!) does corporate have to step in and correct issues? I’m guessing it depends on the franchising agreement in place, but social media does present a new issue, since it’s unlikely that someone will complain about “UHaul Franchise Number X” online–they are going to complain about UHaul. Ultimately, the company has the responsibility to protect its brand, but I do wonder if the nature of franchised businesses presents an issue with protecting a brand’s reputation online. Corporations have always run the risk of having a franchise drag down its reputation, but the damaged reputation was usually localized. It takes time to enforce the terms of a franchise agreement with a franchise that isn’t meeting corporate standards, and the speed at which a reputation can be damaged has accelerated and there is no longer the “luxury” of a bad acting franchise being a local problem. If it’s a problem franchise in rural Kansas and someone tweets about it, it’s now an international brand reputation problem for the company.
I pointed David to one of the posts on Consumerist, which referenced an episode of Inside Edition that featured UHaul’s CEO providing his cell phone number for customer complaints. I hope David gets some kind of response; moving is stressful enough without adding in lousy customer service.
PS–It’s too bad David doesn’t live in New England. Gentle Giant is the single best moving company I’ve ever worked with (see above reference to number of moves, I *know* moving)–I’ve used them five times in the last two years. They are AWESOME.