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Public Relations Thought Leader

Responses to Clients on Social Media Critical for Building, Maintaining Relationships

As we inched along this past Sunday night in the security line in what seemed like an endless corridor at Logan Boston Airport, my wife Jan tweeted our frustration on her cell phone.

Chris Schroder is president of Schroder Media

Not a major crisis, mind you. Nevertheless, a communications professional somewhere was monitoring comments and responded within a minute or two with a tweet apologizing for the delay as the airport takes great pride in partnering with TSA to ensure efficient screening, with must faster lines. Jan tweeted a thanks for the response, but that given our experience they might want to adjust their average wait times on the airport website.

We learned in a follow-up tweet from one of Jan’s Twitter followers that our delay was caused because one of only three lanes was closed to passengers to instead scan a major delivery of beverages to the concourse. “Product before people, always,” she wrote. Hardly what you want people to be tweeting about your company.

As we inched along, eventually making our flight with minutes to spare, we became part of increasingly educated though still somewhat frustrated mass of customers of the airport and the TSA. And, somewhere in our digital universe, a communications professional who could have been halfway around the world was able to monitor and address a small frustration.

Although he couldn’t do anything to get us to our flight faster, it did help to know someone was listening and responding.

Before the growth of social media, customer frustrations were vented by writing a letter, sending an email, or complaining in person to whomever was in charge. Or in most cases not voiced at all. The customer just went elsewhere.

Now, any customer at any moment can smudge an otherwise sterling reputation of the largest or smallest business in America.

Businesses – and PR firms – are playing a constant game of defense, tracking comments across an array of new electronic platforms exploding across our increasingly digital world.

Many of us remember – or my younger employees have at least studied in PR class – the 1982 Johnson & Johnson CEO who managed the Tylenol crisis so well, pulling all the tablets off the shelves to ensure safety. What we forget is his heralded response came six days after the news reports of customer deaths first hit newspapers and TV. In today’s world, the barrage of social media during that interim would have ensured that Tylenol – and perhaps corporate parent Johnson & Johnson – would have suffered a fatal blow to their brands if they took a fraction of that time to respond.

At Schroder PR, we not only have to constantly monitor comments from the customers of our clients as they post comments across the Internet, we have to ensure we respond quickly and properly. And, thankfully, our clients are increasingly asking us to work ahead of time, training their personnel on how to respond to a crisis – before it ever happens.

This week Jan went to our new bank, Chase, and was surprised that they were open on Columbus Day and once again provided friendly, fast service. As soon as she got in the car she tweeted, “Love Chase Bank! Everyone so friendly, great online banking, even open on Columbus Day.”

She got a response to that too. “Thanks for the shout out! Let us know if you need assistance.”

The people you do business with may be writing about your company right now — good and bad. The good news is that your business has an opportunity to respond quickly and potentially save customers or clients if they are having an issue. Or build on a good relationship if they are writing positive things. Both are fantastic opportunities we didn’t have before the age of social media.

– Chris Schroder


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