At Gnomedex, one of the more interesting conversations I participated in was with a large, brand-name publisher (who shall remain nameless). I was talking about how at FeedBurner, we take feedback very seriously. So, seriously, in fact, that many of us monitor Technorati pretty actively (and other similar services) to look for anyone talking about FeedBurner. We aim to respond to those comments (good or bad) within a couple hours, often within a few minutes.
It never ceases to amaze me how much goodwill this earns us. Yet this publisher was worried that embracing this approach would distract their employees, get them stuck in an endless loop of nothing but commenting on blogs. You’d be surprised: it doesn’t take that much time, and the payoff far outweighs the investment of a few minutes a day.
That said, some ground rules:
- It’s far better for the company themselves to speak. But if you’re going to have a PR firm act on your behalf, try to avoid this example over on Jeff Jarvis’s blog. Yikes.
- Own up to mistakes. Chris Pirillo caught a bug (first!) of ours this morning, wasn’t sure who to blame, and I made sure in the comments it was clear that it was our issue. I don’t like making mistakes any more than the next guy. But I want every publisher to know that we’ll never hide from a mistake, and where we can, we’ll engage and address the issue as quickly as possible to do right by them.
- Encourage feedback. Scoble, who’s equally good at admitting what’s wrong with his company (of course, he’s no longer at Microsoft, but that’s beside the point), in that same post points out that feedback from guys like Chris Pirillo is like gold. Confident companies want to see the rough edges, because they should know they’re able to fix them. The more they fix, the better the product, and the more distance between their product and anyone else’s.
- This isn’t just about negative, feedback… be sure to acknowledge when people say nice things too. It’s amazing how far a little acknowledgement can go towards building an honest-to-goodness community.
This all seems so obvious to me, but the conversation at Gnomedex, and Dell’s PR firm’s inept commenting on Jeff’s blog, tell me that it’s not yet conventional wisdom. I wonder how long before it will be…