Rethinking the Connected Marketing Future – Part Four

Welcome to the latest post in our series about Connected Marketing. Each week, we’re revisiting a selection of predictions made back in 2005 and asking you to tell...

Welcome to the latest post in our series about Connected Marketing. Each week, we’re revisiting a selection of predictions made back in 2005 and asking you to tell us where you think they hit the mark, what they missed and what we can expect next.

crisis management

This week we’re focusing on the second strand of predictions about engagement: avoiding and managing negative word of mouth, and whether or not the rise of customer relationship management is the death of promotion.

Please use the comments section to send us your feedback and to share your own views.



2005 prediction #7:

Managing and avoiding negative word of mouth, online and offline, will be an increasingly important area in connected marketing…

2013 update:

“While online reputation management remains important, brands are displaying a shift in mindset away from fearing the threat of negative feedback to relishing the opportunity that criticism provides. Understanding that unfounded criticism rarely gets amplified, while a critic-turned-fan can be a powerful advocate, is an indicator of social media maturity.”

– Luke Brynley-Jones, founder and CEO, Our Social Times


“Word of mouth has always been important to organisations. More so now with social media being woven into the cultural fabric. Social media is a megaphone with which people now can share their experiences with thousands if not millions of people. The sphere of influence has enlarged. Let’s be upfront, you can’t really avoid negative word of mouth. You can’t be liked by everyone all of the time. What you can do is manage negative word of mouth. And you do that from listening to what is being said about you, your competitors, and the industry. And by understanding your organisation’s SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) then planning for them, or better yet working to eliminate the weaknesses or threats. Being prepared is now key. Also, organisations now really have to meet their brand promise regardless of what it is. They are being watched by a larger number of people. And they are being held accountable..”

– Ann Marie van den Hurk, Principal, Mind The Gap Public Relations, and author of Social Media Crisis Communications: Preparing for, Preventing, and Surviving a Public Relations #FAIL

“Crisis management might be increasingly important (in fact absolutely critical today), but I don’t think many companies are prepared for the online assault that the viral nature of social can bring. It is not only the way in which a crisis can hop online fast and catch you unawares (or out of working hours), but the fact that social media and connectivity itself can cause a crisis. From privacy issues to leaking of confidential information, companies are increasingly vulnerable. In some recent research we conducted, almost 20% of big, well-known brands have no social media policy and very little knowledge of the law. And in my view, as consumers, buyers, employees and stakeholders form closer bonds through social media (and work and home life blend more and more), the risk of crisis will only get worse. The future will see companies make crisis management a firm part of their governance and crisis drills (like fire drills) will be a regular occurrence.”

– Katy Howell, CEO, immediate future


“The best way to build a reputation is to earn it. If your product or service doesn’t meet expectations, your customers are almost certainly already criticising it online. This is the story of Brand Anarchy.

“I’d urge you to search social networks and the web for comments about your organisation, its products and services, and your market. If your customers believe that you treat them badly, produce poor products, avoid taxes, or are unethical they will tell you given the opportunity, and if you don’t give them that opportunity, they’ll do it indirectly and your reputation will suffer.

“You’d be wise to listen to their concerns if you want to avoid reputational fall-out on social forms of media.”

Stephen Waddington, European digitaland social media director, Ketchum, CIPR President-Elect, and author of Brand Anarchy and Brand Vandals (out October 2013).

“There will always be an element of negative chatter, be that online or offline. Online social channels give customers a voice and companies a channel to acknowledge and react to significant changes in negative sentiment. The challenge is to identify what normal looks like – be that positive, neutral, or negative sentiment for individual companies, products, or brands – and to create real-time monitors which look for spikes in conversation over short periods of time and provide the internal teams with the tools to assess if the change is a result of a campaign or a negative issue. The monitoring teams should be empowered to react and manage these changes swiftly and transparently, reducing the length of time the negative chatter takes place and normal levels resume.”

Julie Walker, innovation and social business consultant


“With the surge of social media, managing negative WOM has become an undeniable component of nearly every PR initiative. PR practitioners are seizing the opportunity to lead word of mouth marketing (WOMM). However, unproven strategies and tactics in WOMM curb client budgets and cripple initiatives that should be long-term and integrated with other marketing disciplines. Crisis plans need to include response scenarios and scripts suited for social media channels.”

Idil Cakim, VP, Media Analytics Consulting, Nielsen


“Considering the rise of transparency, this is another prediction that hit the nail on the head. Especially in my study of corporate social responsibility, this has been an amazing development. Thanks to connected marketing and social media, brands can’t lie – they get called out very publicly and very quickly.”

–  Andrea Learned, author of What Really Makes Women Buy


“Because consumers and brands get closer, nothing can be kept unknown. The rise of connected marketing tackled this reputation challenge for brands and offered the opportunity to turn negative word of mouth into positive associations. A rant published online becomes a golden nugget for brands to capitalize on. It gives permission for a justified intervention that does not feel like marketed PR but more like an effective way to connect with people, as Bodyform’s Caroline Williams hilariously demonstrated in her answer to Richard Neill’s Facebook post.”

– Antonin Jamond, Strategist BSUR,


2005 prediction #8:

Techniques developed in viral, buzz and word of mouth will be increasingly adopted in CRM programmes as both retention and acquisition (turning buyers into advocates) tools.

2013 update:

“In recent years brands have focused on stimulating online engagement to generate word-of-mouth referrals. Forward-thinking organisations, however, are taking a longer view, eschewing short term ‘Likes’ in favour of building genuine relationships with customers. Adopting social CRM processes and a social business mentality – one that thinks beyond marketing and instead addresses the needs of the whole organisation equally – provides the foundation for digital success in 2013.”

– Luke Brynley-Jones, founder and CEO, Our Social Times


“Social media is forcing organizations to truly listen and then interact on the consumers’ terms. Smart, humanized organizations will embrace social media as another or should I say an unfiltered channel for conversation with consumers. Social media is also allowing organizations to be more daring in how they interact and reach out to consumers. They are freer to climb out of the box and experiment with tactics.”

– Ann Marie van den Hurk, Principal, Mind The Gap Public Relations, and author of Social Media Crisis Communications: Preparing for, Preventing, and Surviving a Public Relations #FAIL


“CRM integration with a single, connected view of the customer seems like a dream of utopia – and still a long way off. If it isn’t the fact that many social media tools and platforms don’t connect well (or share APIs), then there is the human factor. The online guises, avatars and pseudonyms that make it near impossible to discover single identities and bring all the data points under one roof. And the whole lot is further exacerbated by legacy systems in companies that still struggle to talk across departments, let alone with a single voice to customers. The future I fear will continue with a hodge podge of systems cobbled together. And as data protections and privacy laws tighten, we may even find it impossible to isolate our customers down to a single relationship at all.”

– Katy Howell, CEO, immediate future


“It’s a truism of the web that people are more likely to share critical feedback via electronic means, rather than face-to-face. But, if you take the effort to listen and respond, your efforts are likely to be rewarded with advocacy. The challenge for organisations is managing these conversations.

Communications and public relations must be integrated with customer service and marketing. That’s the shift to social business.

I may be @wadds on Twitter but I doubt that’s a moniker that exists on any customer relationship management database for an organisation where I’m a customer. Change is coming and there are a few examples of excellence, but we’re at a point in time when organisations are frequently overwhelmed by customer engagement via new channels such as Twitter and simply aren’t able to reengineer processes or technology fast enough.”

Stephen Waddington, European digitaland social media director, Ketchum, CIPR President-Elect, and author of Brand Anarchy and Brand Vandals (out October 2013).


“CRM will move away from individual tactical campaigns driven by internal goals towards customer-centric, added-value services which are integrated across all areas of a business and accessed via multiple touch points. As customers become more engaged in conversations with each other and with companies around brands, products and services, organisations who have multi-topic, social customer engagement strategies will have new opportunities and channels to acquire and retain customers through inviting them to become key partners in their business growth plans.”

Julie Walker, innovation and social business consultant


“eCRM remains the holy grail. As an industry, we’re not there yet. Given the importance of social media to customer relations (and vice versa), it would behoove every customer-facing company to use social media channels to increase the efficiency of its customer relations and reduce cost. CRM systems will get more sophisticated, connecting customers’ activity with their social profiles. More organizations will scale up to respond to customers through social media.”

Idil Cakim, VP, Media Analytics Consulting, Nielsen

“The shift towards a customer-centric culture is finally starting to happen. The consolidation we see in the CRM, marketing automation and customer service space is a sign of it. Yet, there is still a long way to go and connect the dots.

“An important goal of a single – or rather integrated – view on the customer is the optimization of marketing campaigns. However, it’s essential to reverse the view and dissect the touch points and customer experience from an input perspective first.

“The fastest road to word of mouth is a continuous analysis and optimization of customer experiences across the various touch points. Yet, that’s not just a matter of (e)CRM, an inevitable unified communications approach and connected systems. It’s most of all a matter of processes and empowerment of all customer-facing functions.

“Reputation management should be pro-daptive and pro-sponsive instead of just adaptive and responsive. Preparing for potential crises by definition touches the whole organization. The flows designed to solve them, using connected systems, are becoming more important. A customer service agent needs instant access to the proper instances, information, resources and even content to prioritize and respond, regardless of touch points. Yet, the listening, empowerment and preparation part, with a focus on customer experiences, is still too often overlooked.

“This culture of analysis in order to pro-spond and prepare is being implemented in organizations that connect the customer-centric dots on all levels: collaboration, technology, etc. Finally, this shift from response to pro-sponse and the customer experience in the tiniest detail will inevitably require a higher involvement of customer and communities in the social CRM process.

“We’re still stuck too much in the social CRM as a tool mindset rather than social CRM as a connected process. Selfservice communities, for instance, are not a replacement for customer service, but in many cases they absolutely make sense. The corporate ecosystem is not limited to the organization itself and that’s where the opportunities and even ‘must grab’ benefits are.”

J-P De Clerck, Founder, Digital Business Academy


Some extra food for thought:

“What about looking at ‘when the bubble bursts and all becomes legal’? The Lord McAlpine / Twitter / Sally Bercow example would be a good one to use to explore this in part. It demonstrates that whilst speed is of utter importance in today’s communications industry, there is usually a time when the landscape has to reset and take stock of traditional values and laws. No-one can just say what they want, via any medium – it still can cost someone their reputation… So there have to be certain checks and balances in place for reputational protection. But even with them, one could also question whether those involved in an incredibly high-profile case can really get a fair trial when social media seems to condemn without trial. Interesting areas to explore.”

– David Wilson, Group Managing Director & Partner, Bell Pottinger


We’ll publish a round-up of responses at the end of the series. In the meantime please let us know your thoughts about this week’s topics by leaving a comment below. You can also catch up with other posts in this series:

Part One: Content Creation

Part Two: Marketing Distribution

and Part 3: Engagement – External and Internal

Join us again next week for the final part of this series when we’ll be talking about Measurement and Monitoring.

You can also register here for Our Social Times’ upcoming social CRM events:

–  Social CRM 2013, London, July 8/9th. A compelling two-day conference and workshop that highlights the latest thinking and practice in social customer engagement.

–  Webinar: Social Business – Moving Beyond Engagement. A free 1-hour webinar on July 11th, featuring speakers from Sony and HSBC.

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