Jeremy Toeman, a fellow friend and colleague of strong opinion (I mean that in a good way Jeremy), titled a post “Stop Trusting the Internet!“, a missive against rumors, misleading headlines, exaggerations and falsehoods that exist on the Internet:
“Letâ€™s face it, the news is more about entertainment and ad revenue than it is about reporting facts and accuracy. Just because it happened online doesnâ€™t make it real.”
Unfortunately, he’s incorrect. If enough people believe in something it can be as good as real. Like I blogged about yesterday, anecdotal stories are powerful forces effecting products, brands and company images. And it is part of how our brains are generally wired.
People believing the Internet is why PR and and Social Media matters. Your brand is not under your control, it is beholden by the same people – that’s everyday people like you and me – who may believe an email forward, word-of-mouth story via an Amazon.com review or a powerful brand-bruising blog like the Consumerist.
Take a look at one of the top articles on Consumerist today “Delta Makes Woman With Muscular Dystrophy Crawl Off Plane“.
” Julianna, who has muscular dystrophy, missed the connecting flight because nobody came with a wheelchair until 8:05â€”the same time the connecting flight took off. To make matters worse, the plane crew told Julianna she might make the flight anyway if she stopped waiting for help and got off the plane right now, so she crawled down the stairs on her own.
While I have no reason to not believe what Julianna says, what if the Consumerist or any similar site not “double-checked the source” like Jeremy Toeman asks for? That doesn’t matter. Despite 4-5 pages of commenters denouncing Delta, no Delta community manager has responded to the article. Does Delta have a tool like Radian6 to monitor their brand online? Or a community manager to address issues?
Instead we are left with comments after comments of these:
I’m utterly aghast and disgusted. My sister also suffers from MS and I, for one, was furious to read about your treatment. Delta Airlines will no longer be seeing any more of my travel money.
For these Consumerist readers, Delta’s brand has been killed and there is no one at Delta responding.
Is Julianna’s account accurate? As of now, we don’t know and it does not matter. Damage has been done to the Delta brand for everyone who has seen the article.
Who cares if you should believe everything on the Internet? If you know enough of your audience does, you should be there to protect your brand. What are consumers saying about your brand right now?