"Advertisers don't plan to fail, they fail to plan. If brands don't plan for all the ramifications before you open yourself to the public, if you don't have your operations in order, your messaging in order, your back office in order, you're open to big problems. You have to work with your core audience, find out what your customers are saying, understand what they are requesting and asking of you. Then, when you can take potshots at yourself, you know you're ready for UGM."
-- Scott Holmes, United Future
Virginia Miracle of Brains on Fire warns that it's a mistake to think that "the traditionally separated PR and marketing teams will allow you to respond or, more proactively, harness the power of UGM."
She offers the following tips to staying fireproof:
- Identify and train groups of mature, personable folks in your company in technology, tools and blogosphere etiquette
- Allow them to answer questions on your behalf that may appear on message boards or forums
- Invest in educating part of the marketing team on the new tools and task them with thinking about how they can be woven authentically with your go-to-market plans
- See if you already have some fans telling your story. Let them know you're listening. This will allow them to feel an even greater degree of ownership in your brand
Max Kalehoff, vice president of marketing for Nielsen BuzzMetrics, a global measurement service for user-generated media, makes clear that UGM's popularity exists at least partly "because all the other controllable stuff is losing effectiveness."
Kalehoff counsels advertisers to be authentic and transparent. "Practice common sense ethics," he says. "Be a champion of the consumer. You can no longer market a product that sucks. Consumers talk to one another. Search engines are becoming not just ways to find data on the web but powerful enablers or facilitators for passionate information seekers. As a result, it comes down to less tolerance by the consumer. Consumer respect is an emerging theme here. Advertisers need to understand WOM and the interaction and process and flow surrounding it."
Next: Get ready for tomorrow's UGM