Are You Listening to the Town Hall Meeting About You?

Today we continue our guest columnist series with a post from Robin Luymes.  Robin has an impressive background in our industry, particularly in the use of social media and digital space to manage an organization’s web reputation. A former business journalist, Luymes led Amway’s U.S. public relations and web marketing efforts, including its groundbreaking use of social media to engage its key audiences.  Now he runs a PR firm that provides crisis communications, media training, social media and media relations services.  Plus he’s a great guy that I have had the privilege of meeting at several DSA functions.  His post today provides some great insight on why it’s important to get involved in the social media conversation about your brand.

Robin Luymes

Guest post by Robin Luymes

Are you listening to the town hall meeting about you?

If there was a town hall meeting held in your community to talk about your company, your products, and your business model, you’d probably want a representative there, right? At the very least, you would want to monitor what was being said about your business so that you could take that information back to the office and determine an appropriate response.

Ideally, as long as the other speakers and audience are still in the auditorium, you might want to take your turn at the podium to share the company’s perspective on the matters being discussed. You might not get these same people into the room again to hear your side of the story.

That particular scenario is happening right now. It’s happening on web sites, blogs and via social media platforms. If your business has a substantial presence with a consuming public, it’s being discussed. If your products are being bought and sold and if you provide services that others use, people are talking. And if you offer a business opportunity for others to market your products and earn income, as many direct sellers do, you are definitely being chatted up online.

Let’s be clear about something here: businesses have always been discussed in the public marketplace. They have been discussed over dinner tables, in coffee shops, via phone conversations, and even at church socials. And they still are.  But now they’re also being talked about in online conversations that you can actually track and be part of.

Just like the town hall meeting held to talk about your business, why wouldn’t you become involved in the dialog about your business online?  If people are saying nice things about you, you might want to reward them for being a brand evangelist.  If they’re saying your service or product isn’t good, you should ask them for more information to ensure they have a good experience.  If they are claiming your business is fraudulent or that your products don’t work as you say they do or some other falsehood, you had better get in there and correct the record ASAP.

Remember, it’s not just the few people talking about you that you need to inform. It’s EVERYONE ELSE that will stumble across that conversation later when they conduct a search for your name. This stuff pops up in the most incredible places!  I used to lead Amway’s public relations team for the U.S., and my name still gets served up to me in the Google reports sent to my email for things I said online years ago. It’s not current, it’s not necessarily accurate for today, but it’s still coming up on my screen.

I’ve heard the many excuses that business leaders can provide to NOT be involved in the online dialog about your business. It’s not productive. It distracts from sales activities. You can’t win those people over (assuming they’re negative).  Nobody’s interested in what we have to say (assuming you’re not being discussed so much).

What happens when something big does happen to your company?  A crisis hits, and suddenly your brand is all over Twitter and Facebook and YouTube.  If you haven’t been out there nurturing a network of friends and followers, who will be there to hear your side of the story when the crisis breaks?  You can’t rely upon traditional media anymore, since so many younger adults (and older ones too!) are turning to the web for all their information needs.

There are good “immediacy” reasons to be involved in monitoring and engaging in the online dialog about your brand.  And there definitely are good long-term crisis communications reasons to be involved in developing those online relationships.

Making the decision to start is one thing. Getting started is another.  It requires research, listening, and understanding of audiences and their motives and needs.  It also requires an understanding of the “rules of the road” for social media, and establishing “rules of the road” for your organization. It requires you to know who you are and what you stand for, and it requires you to develop a strategy to use social media effectively. These are some of the things I hope to talk about more here in Jen’s blog in future posts.

In the meantime, if you’re not checking out the Town Hall conversations being held about your brand, you might want to tune in and see what they’re chatting about.

With more than 20 years experience, Robin Luymes is a leader in the public relations field, particularly in the use of social media and digital space to manage an organization’s web reputation. A former business journalist, Luymes led Amway’s U.S. public relations and web marketing efforts, including its groundbreaking use of social media to engage its key audiences. Today, as principal of Luymes Public Relations LLC in Grand Rapids, Mich., Luymes provides crisis communications, media training, social media and media relations services. He blogs at www.Luymes.com and can be found on Twitter as @SuperDu.

Photo Credit: Editor B

3 Responses to Are You Listening to the Town Hall Meeting About You?
  1. Robin Luymes, APR
    February 10, 2010 | 11:42 am

    Thanks Jeannine! Many company execs have yet to realize that conversations happening online about their companies and brands represent an opportunity rather than a “challenge” or “issue” or (in some cases) a “crisis.” They need to jump in and ensure their positions are represented and head off the veerage of conversation into undesirable territories (which happens all to quickly!).

  2. Jeannine Campbell, CMC
    February 9, 2010 | 9:41 am

    Another great article and presenter, Jennifer! The Town Hall Meeting concept really hits home with me as i am a regular attendee at ours. If someone from the public goes up to speak, the line just begins to form of those wanting to also address the subject(s). Robin- this is a great visual for me to have tucked in my back pocket when I am doing anything online. Thank you both!

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