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Lorri Randle wrote:

I read your blog and listen to your podcast and thought you’d be great in answering this question:

What do you tell a company that is scared to blog or do any new media because of the possibility of bad comments and bad press? I have a friend in an agency who says that the number one response from big companies about new media is: “we can’t control it, what about the bad comments.” He used the example of Apple hating its blog because of all the negative comments and GM and how their commercial backfired.

I wanted to get your opinions as to what you would say if someone asked you this question?

Good question, and a tough one if a company is not already in the new media space. I’d say this – a company that wants to participate in new media has to be a lot like a company that’s ready to go public on the stock market. You have to do your due diligence internally, decide how much information can be made public, and if you have skeletons in the closet, either resolve them or reveal them up front so that it won’t come back to bite you later on.

The reality is that every company has done something to tick off at least one customer, and that customer has the same power voice online as the company itself does. The real question is – if that company encounters negative press online, is it ready, is it prepared to engage and discuss? If you just sit on your hands and do nothing, you’ve effectively surrendered to the negative blog comments and conversation online. Mitch Joel often cites the Kryptonite Lock example as a company that could have joined the conversation but sat it out, and lost millions of dollars in the process.

Think carefully about how a company can turn negatives into positives, or at least provide an alternate perspective. In GM’s case, they could and should have highlighted very publicly some of the great examples customers had turned in, PLUS highlighted some of the best “negative” videos, along with a senior executive explaining what environmental research they’re doing to mitigate the damage their giant SUVs do, be it advances in hybrid technology, fuel cells, batteries, etc.

If a company has NOTHING positive going on inside, then of course, it’s best to stay out of the conversation. If you’re an employee at a company which has no redeeming value to society, you probably should think about a job elsewhere, anyway.

Bottom line: you will get bad press no matter what. You will get good press, too. If you’re not already participating in the conversation, when the bad times come, you’re going to get stomped.