What should consumer brands and PR agencies do in an environment where they don’t have control over discussions happening on the Internet about their brands and clients? “Monitor and engage,” feel the experts.
On the last day of the ICCO global PR conference, speakers called on PR professionals to carefully monitor the user generated content of online users where they not only share their experience but also discuss brands often in a critical manner, which has the potential to get spiraled.
Stressing on the need to closely monitor the user generated content, Christopher Graves, President, Asia Pacific, Ogilvy PR, said that consumers now put their reviews on products online and shared it through social networking sites like MySpace, blogs, photo-sharing sites like Flickr, tagging sites like del.icio.us, video sharing sites like YouTube and podcasting.
“Not only that, consumers are also now branding our clients through sites like Flickr and YouTube whether the client likes it or not,” Graves said, showing a user-generated photo posted on Flickr as an advertisement of Adidas.
“We not only need to monitor them but also explore how best we can engage with them,” Graves observed.
Describing a common Indian Internet user, Ajit Balakrishnan, Founder & CEO, Rediff.com, said, “It is wrong to assume that only IT professionals are active on the social networking sites. The common Internet user is young within the age category of 15-35 years.”
Balakrishnan asked PR professionals to carefully go through the message boards “which gives insights into many brands and institutions as interesting discussions happen in these forums.”
“Tracking sites like Technorati and Flickr could be of great help to PR professionals,” Esther Dyson, Editor, Release 1.0, for CNET Networks said.
Replying to a query from the audience as to why should a brand engage with a blogger whose credibility could be questionable though he may be driving good amount of traffic, Dyson said, “The fact that he is driving a good amount of traffic shows that there is a large audience which believes in him. One cannot simply ignore the bloggers.”
Balakrishnan said, “We live by old notions that only journalists have credibility and that younger users due to lack of experience cannot be wiser on a serious topic.” He compared it with the prevalence of ‘qualified democracy’ in earlier days where only graduates or male citizens could vote in a country. “It is a different world we are living in now,” he maintained.