Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Carphone Warehouse a PR disaster

Jupiter Research has come out with yet another scare report about how bloggers can damage your brand.

Of course this is a load of baloney. You can damage your brand and bloggers can egg you on but bloggers won't damage your brand.

In fact, it takes a lot to really damage a brand on-line. The number of companies forced out of business by Internet comment in the last 20 years is remarkably few. The threat of brand criticism for a reasonably ethically run corporation is marginal.

Julian Smith, JupiterResearch Analyst and lead author of the report, said: “Marketers need to identify key contributors, using buzz monitoring tools and techniques, and map out the network through which conversations spread. Profiling and pinpointing marketplace influencers enables marketers to move beyond a mass-audience monologue approach toward a comparatively more engaging and potentially powerful targeted-audience dialogue approach.”

Who is a 'key contributor'? In a network environment the long tail is just as important. By the time the 'key contributor' has the story (and I am guessing that he is thinking of so called 'A List' bloggers etc.), the story is half way to the Antennae galaxies as well.

Why marketers? How is the painting by numbers brigade going to understand the nature of a network? What do they know of conversations?

Two way symmetrical communication is no place for marketers.

Most brand criticism on-line is part of a conversation.

For example, I am very hacked off with Onetel at present. Last Thursday my browser stopped working at about 9:30 pm and I spent hours trying to find out which setting I had upset at the end of a long working day. By Friday, I had worked out that it was not me (Skype worked ok) and re-set all my settings. A succession of phone calls to Onetel made sure there was nothing at my end that could be done and it was just down to their engineers finishing a cup of coffee and plugging the servers back in. This they did on Monday afternoon. For me, this was a disaster. I lost two days of being on-line. I expect to get some recompense for the problem.

Now that was not so bad was it?

Onetel is not dead yet. Lets stir it up a bit more.

Onetel is owned by Carphone Warehouse .

The Carphone warehouse PR company is Freud Communications has a glitch with its web site today – a natural disaster for a communications company.

OneTel has a and sister company TalkTalk who, by a strange co-incidence also has had its web site up and down like a clown's pyjamas because it can't cope with the traffic its marketing campaign.

Now, the both Onetel and TalkTalk take an age to answer the phone and contacting their press office takes a very long time.

So.... I called Freud Communications (who look after consummer work) to ask them what was going on with the Carphone Warehouse companies. They are looking into it (but certainly not at blog speed).

At 10:26 on Tuesday the 25th March, Carephone Warehouse had an answering machine asking me to call Michelle Parrish because she handles 'out of hours' calls.

At Citigate Dewe Rogerson, who handle the TalkTalk's Public Relations, Mark, a spokesman for Carphone Warehouse, (yes I was confused too), told me that it was unfortunate but last week they were getting 40,000 enquiries per minute and so on occasion the server has fallen over.

Apparently they did anticipate interest but enquiries are at upper end of expectations. They 'have enough people to handle enquiries', Mark said, 'but but not the technology to cope. Carphone Warehouse cannot get enough servers to run the web site.” This debacle can be reduced to talking to the sheep in Animal Farm “People good, communicating with them bad”.

Carphone Warehouse had a turnover of £2,555,100,000 to the year April 2 and profits of £102,100,000 which is amazing when they have such a problem with computers.

“Organisations ignoring community based influencers face the danger of small-scale disgruntlement being exposed to a mass audience, resulting in a disproportionately large-scale public relations problem that can directly affect their bottom-line,” added Julian Smith to his Jupiter Research column.

Well, lets find out.

If this story get round the bloggersphere we will be interested in the 'damage' it really does.

My guess is not much.

Picture: Carphone Warehouse