The Scoble Comment Controversy Continues

Hi Georgetown students.

This week’s assignment is to listen to the “For Immediate Release” episode number 434 and comment on one of the topic below:

  • Follow-up discussion on Robert Scoble and PR is dead;
  • Comcast’s Twitter team coaching Saleforce.com,
  • Gartner identifies four ways in which enterprises use Twitter.

Mark

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Comments

  1. Kevin Kaveski Says: March 28, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    It’s ironic that Robert Scoble would say that PR is dead when he himself practices PR with his blog.

    I agree with Alice Marshall that Scoble has done some amazing work over the years and created a large following through his blog. While he has created “tech buzz” around him there is little room for him to criticize the immense and complex world of PR that he doesn’t attempt to understand or help.

    Mark and Robert French in FIR434 bring up the fact that Scoble criticizes all of PR for “pitching” ideas that don’t interest him. Robert French stressed that it is important to understand how each reporter (Scoble) or target audience wants to be engaged. In our recent class Mark mentioned that creating a relationship with the reporter/audience builds trust that the quality of what we are emailing will meet their standard or interest and be accepted.

    Scoble takes an “all about me” approach to PR. If something doesn’t meet his standards, then he criticizes it as if he was the center of the PR Universe. The idea that he should be wined and dined to gain his attention to write specific stories flirts with ethical misconduct that traditional reporters are faced with.

    Robert Scoble sounds like he is upset with receiving high amounts of spam (I’m speculating). He probably receives hundreds of blind emails from messengers who have never talked to him before (as do many professions i.e. government relations). If anything, Scoble should have said that people don’t know how to properly “pitch” to him! If he wants to fix this problem (how to properly email pitch), then he should offer a solution rather than criticize a whole profession. Ben Franklin once said, “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.” That would explain why professionals (Alice, Mark, Robert) see him as a fool.

  2. Keith Parent Says: March 30, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    The discussion of Salesforce.com and Comcast using Twitter to monitor conversations between customers has a fascinating edge that sheds light on the complex nature of human interaction and communication. Consumers have begun utilizing Twitter as a way to bring concerns about a product or service to a public forum. It suggests that people like to discuss issues before making them “issues” in the first place. This phenomenon opens up the flood gates for companies like Comcast, and now Salesforce to utilize Twitter communications as a way to identify, and extinguish any problems before they reach critical status.

    Hobson mentioned that some people see Twitter as a phenomenon at its peak, and have become almost “fed up” with the constant discussion of what everyone is doing on Twitter. It may be annoying to some, but it is also clear that customer relationship management, a function critical to a successful business, has identified Twitter as a way to act in the interest of the customer more efficiently and effectively than ever before. Hobson also mentioned that according to an Information Week article, the Twitter monitoring team at Comcast helped solve 21,000 customer issues over a year. This number sounds large, but in reality it is about the same number of calls or less, conventional customer service representatives receive on a daily bases. What should be considered in this scenario is that by resolving the 21,000 before they become issues for a customer service phone representative, the Twitter team may have avoided larger issues and an exponentially higher number of customers who could have been impacted. Twitter seems to be allowing for a proactive as apposed to reactive customer service function. As Hobson mentions, customer service is, and should be, practiced as a form of good Public Relations.

    The fact that the Comcast Team coaching Salesforce.com does not interfere with the conversations on Twitter, points out that they understand the inherent nature of the technology. People talk there because they feel they can openly express themselves in a public forum. If Comcast were to interfere with that freedom, Comcast as well as Twitter risk losing a level of trust needed for good public relations.

  3. Shakirah Hill Says: March 30, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    I recently joined Twitter to get a better understanding of what all the fuss was about. While I think that is highly addictive, I feel that companies are jumping too quickly on the Twitter bandwagon before considering whether or not using it is effective for them. I I think that Gartner’s four uses of Twitter for enterprises are too preliminary. How do you measure whether Twitter is increasing awareness of a company or a message? What is a company trying to accomplish in using Twitter. As an open system, Twitter is useful because it allows customers to engage in active conversations with companies and it also allows the companies to see in real time how customers feel towards products. But, this also leaves room for a margin of error. What happens when a company receives 25,000 followers? Will all the customers get the one-on-one attention they were used to when there were 25 followers. Perhaps it can create friction between consumers and the companies. Over time I see Twitter becoming more useful but companies must have clear objectives in establishing a Twitter account and not becoming members because its the latest thing to do. It could turn out as a waste of time.

  4. Sunaina Bhatnagar Says: March 30, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    After listening to episode 434 of “For Immediate Release,” I am happy to learn that Salesforce.com is recognizing that a lot of important conversations are happening on Twitter, and that they have decided to add a Twitter component to their company. I also find it a smart move because it’s a great way to gain publicity since the media is crazed with this social media tool.

    I want to comment on two reasons why I believe this is an excellent move by Salesforce.com, and also offer some suggestions for this company.

    First of all, being on Twitter enables Saleforce.com to carry out excellent customer service at up to the minute speed. For example, when dealing with an infuriated customer, a Salesforce.com representative can deal with the issue right then and there in real-time. Also, the conversations that occur on Twitter are remarkable. It’s quite a phenomenon to have loyal followers on Twitter that follow each update that an individual or company posts. For example, I visited Saleforce.com’s Twitter page and found that the company currently reaches out to 1, 328 followers and features 636 updates. These are powerful statistics that the company can definitely work in their favor. It is a very powerful concept and I think can truly create long lasting mutual relationships, which is the whole point of public relations.

    Secondly, Twitter allows Salesforce.com to demonstrate openness. This public relations attribute occurs because being on Twitter enables Saleforce.com to be more visible and accessible. Visibility and accessibility are important for the customers of Salesforce.com and from a public relations standpoint; these qualities contribute to building an overall mutual, relationship.

    Lastly, I have two recommendations for Salesforce.com:

    1)The company needs to make sure they demonstrate authenticity. Twitter has been in the news a lot this past weekend for all the attention it received on celebrities and their ghostwriters. Personally, I think it’s pretty lame that celebrities can’t type a sentence or two and need to hire a ghostwriter to this for them. (Go Shaq! He’s one of the few who actually types his own tweets!) I’m sure many others share my sentiments. It is quite the turn-off when we realize that blogs, micro blogs, or other social media tools are being used deceptively. Think about how much we hate reading automated messages that are so obviously disingenuous. I think as a society we feel insulted once we realize that we are being misled. Thus, I suggest Saleforce.com tweet with utmost authenticity. As Paine (2007) points out, companies don’t blog (micro blog); individuals do (Paine, 2007).

    2)Use Twitter as a measurement tool. For example, customer service representatives at Saleforce.com should monitor and manage conversations that are happening about their company.

    3)In addition, it is imperative that the tweets be engaging. Currently they should provide some very useful information to its users.

    Overall, Twitter is definitely “on the cusp of something” as Neville Hobson said in this week’s episode of “For Immediate Release.” I don’t think it’s on a decline as Steve Rubel suggests, but rather I think this micro blog has not even reached its peak. I believe it is a useful tool when executed properly. Kudos to Salesforce.com for recognizing the importance of Twitter.

  5. Zhazira Bukina Says: March 31, 2009 at 8:18 am

    What does the moon care if the dogs bark at her? The dogs bark, but the caravan goes on. From my perspective, PR practitioners shouldn’t follow up come-backs of Robert Scoble about Public Relations. Do we need to give him attention and extra media buzz?
    As for interesting news about Twitter phenomenon, I agree with Shakirah. The companies should pay close attention to Twitter, but this microblogging is the experiment only. The discussion of Salesforce.com and Comcast using Twitter to monitor conversations between customers is not the only news. Twitter has been targeted by Be-A-Magpie, an advertising network which will pay users to insert ads or “magpie tweets” into their message streams. Twitter users have attacked such proposals. Users have complained at the attempts to make money from the service, to “turn tweets into bling bling.” The other news is about Mars’ unsuccessful attempts to use Twitter to promote the candy product, Skittles. The company chose a Twitter feed about Skittles as its homepage. With Twitter as the homepage, the site became a platform for individuals to see themselves show up on the homepage of a major brand. People made racial epithets, wrote profanities, and Tweeted about competitor products. Later Mars removed Twitter from its spot as the homepage and replaced it with the safer Wikipedia entry. Critics said, the company took an arrogant view of the social networks assuming that they could profit from the natural conversations between individuals. The social communities recognized this and reacted swiftly to punish Mars. Yes, “there is value in working within social networks for communications and marketing purposes.” The problem is how you manage the customer relations sphere. The customer relations management is the future of Twitter, probably, but you have to do the hard work of developing customers’ loyalty.

  6. Although Twitter is a great social media outlet, I do not feel it’s appropriate for some companies. In fact, if companies use Twitter they might have difficulties measuring these messages. I believe that Twitter can actually be detrimental to a company’s reputation. If salesforce.com or Comcast quickly and actively resolve issues or concerns made by their customers, this tool may be successful. The reality is, people want change fast! Therefore, I feel like these companies or setting themselves up to be humiliated socially. Yes Twitter is a great way to identified customer concerns, but can they fix them?
    I agree with Alice Marshall and her response to Robert Scoble’s Blog. It isn’t fair to criticize without offering possible suggestions of improvement. Like Story mentioned, “seems like a lot of whining.” After looking through several post comments, some agreed that Scoble did have some substantial points. Instead of responding to his ignorance, PR professionals should be offering suggestions to improve the “World of PR.”

  7. Although Twitter is a great social media outlet, I do not feel it’s appropriate for some companies. In fact, if companies use Twitter they might have difficulties measuring these messages. I believe that Twitter can actually be detrimental to a company’s reputation. If salesforce.com or Comcast quickly and actively resolve issues or concerns made by their customers, this tool may be successful. The reality is, people want change fast! Therefore, I feel like these companies or setting themselves up to be humiliated socially. Yes Twitter is a great way to identified customer concerns, but can they fix them?
    I agree with Alice Marshall and her response to Robert Scoble’s Blog. It isn’t fair to criticize without offering possible suggestions of improvement. Like Story mentioned, “seems like a lot of whining.” After looking through several post comments, some agreed that Scoble did have some substantial points. Instead of responding to his ignorance, PR professionals should be offering suggestions to improve the “World of PR.”

  8. Catherine Avery Says: March 31, 2009 at 11:04 am

    While I consider myself to be a novice in the Twitter world, the discussion on Comcast’s Twitter team coaching Salesfore.com caught my attention as it reminded me of the topic from FIR’s episode #432 in
    which Dan York talks about the evolution from the print to the online world that we are currently experiencing. It seems like the companies that are using Twitter as a communicator is similar to the companies that are trying to figure out the online media world while experiencing all of the new tools and ways of communications at the same time.

    Developing communications and public relations in the midst of this transition is something that companies need to continually analyze and update in order to ensure that the corporate practices align with the current trends. In particular, in Comcast’s situation of the use of Twitter to manage customer relations, Comcast needs to also consider the number of clients who are currently not active on Twitter. Will Comcast be able to offer a similar type of personal relationship management for those clients? Is Comcast simply using Twitter to help better promote its services, while competitor Verizon is currently marketing for Verizon Fios?

    Comparing Comcast and Verzon’s blog posts mentioned per day on Technorati, it is obvious that Comcast is definitely benefiting from the use of Twitter as from March 1 to March 31, Comcast is mentioned on average 200 times per day compared to Verizon’s average of 10 or less a day. To me this data reveals that Comcast’s use of Twitter has not only helped Comcast manage its customer relations but has also helped to market the company.

    Considering these questions and data, I think that it is important that companies continue to analyze the reasoning for using Twitter in order to evaluate the organization of the new customer relations management system.

  9. Yinka Olajide Says: March 31, 2009 at 11:16 am

    I think too much attention was given to Robert Scoble’s comments. At some point in time I do believe everyone does a bad pitch in their career. Sometimes it is a result of desperation and pressure. Also what exactly makes a pitch a bad one? You really can never tell until it gets to the recipient. I believe nobody starts their day thinking I am going to send out thousands of bad pitches today. You just do your best and hope out of the thousand people you send it out to, it will find ten people willing to give it a shot. At least we know now not to send Scoble any pitches via e-mail. The down side to that though is that you might miss good pitches if you generalize everyone that way.

    While I agree that Public Relations professionals need to look inwards and try other innovative ways to do their pitches. One should also be aware that there are people out there who would rather receive their pitches through their e-mails since it makes it easy for them to track. Basically the message I am getting from Scoble is if you are not a Twitter junkie you are worth nothing. That is so wrong.

  10. Felicia Akoh Says: March 31, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Even though I joined twitter a few days ago, I think Twitter is as addictive as the other social media tools like Facebook. The idea of Comcast and Salesforce.com using Twitter is a good idea. This could serve as an opportunity for them to satisfy their customers at any time, as they can be easily reached through twitter. However, as Shakirah pointed out, this can create friction between consumers and the companies, due to the increase in the number of followers they might have at a given point in time.

    Talking about the twitter account, I think they should take some cautions on establishing that, because customers would not be willing to pay huge sums of money for a twitter account especially at this period where everyone is experiencing the economic crisis.

    Comcast and Salesforce.com should not rush into the twitter plan. They should try it out, make a good decision and avoid bridging their relationship with their customers, because PR is all about engaging in mutually beneficial relationships

  11. Alicja Patela Says: March 31, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    I agree that twitter is “on the cusp” and has reached the mainstream, as Hobson mentioned. Even if you are not following twitter, most people and companies have heard about it and are aware of what it is. However, I do think that companies should proceed with caution when exploring the twitter craze. There is room for potential negativity which could hurt customer relationships. I don’t think twitter is suited for all companies, it depends who their targeted audience is and what kind of relationship have already been established.
    I have dealt with Comcast’s customer service over the phone on multiple occasions, usually dissatisfied with their inability to assist me and alleviate the problem. I think it’s really interesting and exciting that Comcast has branched out to reach more of its audience through twitter. Customers can voice their concerns, opinions and thoughts, while Comcast takes advantage of this by monitoring such messages and then responding accordingly. The next few months should be interesting to follow to see Comcast’s feedback and updates on twitter and to see if more companies have followed Comcast’s example to expand ways to engage with customers.
    In regards to Scoble, I think an important point was brought up by Robert French. He mentioned that Scoble‘s audience and relationships are primarily within the “tech bubble,” which once again highlights the importance of establishing and maintaining good relationships. Scoble knows the kinds of relationships that he has with the “tech” world.

  12. Shana McMahon Says: March 31, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    The idea of using twitter to help companies answer the complaints seems like a good idea. The problem with it is how do the companies pick and choose who they help? The ability to help everyone who complains about their company could be overwhelming, which is why Comcast has the 30,000 customer service representatives. When problems arrive people want to be able to deal with people themselves, so they take the initiative and know that their problem is being fixed.

    If companies start using twitter to track complaints it seems more of a benefit for the company rather than their customer service no matter what they say. They can say they solved a certain number of problems that they found people talking about on a social network, but not everyone uses these social networks so their measurement of productivity would be inconsistent.

    Following up on Robert Scoble’s, PR is Dead, again Scoble does have certain points of PR pitching and how it could be better, but the overall response to him is he is criticizing too much without knowing much about it.

  13. Tzu-Ying(Daisy) Chen Says: March 31, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Maybe it is impolite to say that what Robert Scoble is doing just amplifies his absurd behavior in practicing his own public relations when he claimed that public relations is dead. The fact is that Robert Scoble is not using what he called hateful “pitching” way, but he is undertaking a worse tactic to approach his publicity.

    He loses that public relations people practice multi-dimensional management when maintaining the relationships between clients, media and the public. “Pitching” is just one of several tactics that are available depending on who you are dealing. Take journalists for example, when they prefer to be pitched especially by email. “Pitching” works now.

    Robert Scoble hates public relations people’s “pitching” through email that does not interest him because he does not know good relationship helps him and others read your email. My thought is that when knowing the most basic concept of “mutual beneficial understanding” that we have covered for almost the whole semester, public relations people will spontaneously create something that makes the audience pitched, because public relations people are listening to their need, building a good relationship with them.

    All of us, including public relation people are just overwhelmingly following the trend of technology. Public relations people can achieve successful relationship management by make a good use of social media and creating desirable messages. It is public relations people’s goal to earn media in different ways. It is also, like Alice Marshall said “obligation,” to engage in social media and to keep pitching, listening and contributing.

    Even though it pissed everyone off that Robert Scoble criticized public relations is dead, he was also kind that he voluntarily provided us with a good example of notorious publicity.

  14. Alec Jeffries Says: March 31, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Mr. Robert “Squabble” Scoble’s elitist mentality and “crony journalism” practices fit his posh “celweberty” profile nicely. I am rather impressed with his shrewd ability to gain the spotlight and form a heated debate surrounding his provocative comments. In the words of Sir Winston Churchill, “Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.”

    The follow-up discussion on For Immediate Release: The Hobson & Holtz Report episode number 434 displayed Mr. Scoble’s depth in followers, both supporters and skeptics. It seems as though Mr. Scoble has the attention of many well-seasoned public relations practitioners and has thoroughly pissed off a number of outspoken critics.

    Mr. Scoble’s political campaign tactics have boosted his blog ratings and solidified his die-hard tech fan base. His comments, while extremely distasteful, have also raised an important question among public relations practitioners regarding the public’s view of public relations tactics.

    One supporter, Mr. John Aravosis, articulates his support for Mr. Scoble’s comments by highlighting his junk mail on AMERICAblog (www.americablog.com). What I do not hear from Mr. Aravosis, and other Scoble followers, are the success stories and random pitches that have gained traction.

  15. Raquel Fuentes Says: March 31, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    I have read, heard and digested all the comments on Scoble, and I hope this conversation has run its course because I, for one, don’t want to hear any more about Scoble. All of the commentaries were valid. I liked Alice Marshall’s comparison of lame PR emails to a dog with fleas, they’ll always be some around. It’s a little graphic, but she made a point. I also liked Robert French’s comment that Scoble is in his own little tech world, a small bubble in California. Scoble is offbase because he’s commenting based on his narrow exposure to PR. Okay, I can buy that. Even Mark Story’s passionate, yet logical, comments were on point. But at the end of the day it boils down to this, someone with, clearly, no credibility within the public relations field made some comments that are way off base about an industry that he knows nothing about. At this point, we’re just fanning his cewebity status even more and giving him an even bigger platform to do his grandstanding on regarding topics he knows nothing about.

    The twitter story really struck a cord with me, and I have to disagree Neville. He said he’d pay $5 a month for a commercial account, but it’s worth much more than that to the average corporation. A tool that serves a company as an early warning system about potential problems and becomes, as Neville called it, a listening tool which enables a company to detect and correct problems before they become prevalent is very powerful. The Comcast example was a good one where people were twitting on a problem at 4am before the calling center opened at 7am. Any company out there will recognize it as such and pay a lot more than $5 for it.

  16. Erinn Dumas Says: March 31, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Since the emergence of the Internet, people have been using email for multiple purposes, including pitching stories to news reporters/ journalist. Robert Scobles’ rant about Public Relations professionals emailing pitches, and the PR profession as whole, was unnecessary and over the top. Scobles rant seems like he is stuck in the past and wants to be pampered.

    I personally have had pitched ideas to radio stations and newspapers and both have told me to send my information via email. Being that Scoble has made a living from creating a prominent “Tech blog”, his comments seem even more outlandish. Scoble needs to get mad at the persons that have made this common practice rather than the PR professionals.

    Another interesting point that was made during the podcast was when Frank, the Comcast employee said that public relations, marketing and CRM are less important than customer service/ interaction. It is clear that Frank is ignorant about the fact that without public relations, marketing and CRM, a company would not have customer service and customer interaction. Customer service is just as vital to company as proper customer service if not more.

  17. I think fear has been a significant driver in the newspaper industry’s reluctance to adopt and deploy social media tools; doing so would relinquish the power once held by an elite few: those journalists and editors who were at the helm of once prestigious and respected papers, funneling information to readers in an exchange that was primarily one-way. Tools like twitter enable citizen journalism, giving the once passive recipient of data the ability to disseminate stories and control the flow of information to their “followers.” The active participation in the development of news stories may not bode well with the “old dogs” that have maintained a level of power for decades. I do agree with the Gartner report that finds newspapers guilty of failing to leverage what influences internet users to seek online content in the first place and truly engage brand loyal readers; these readers can then turn into brand stewards that influence their followers. The end result would bode well for the currently battered and bruised bottom line. Also, I too believe that papers aren’t doing enough to take advantage of the social power of their readers – tools like a robust search engine within a newspaper site would most certainly engender some ‘paper’ loyalty. For example, though I am a paid subscriber of the WSJ, I am most disheartened by the limited capabilities of its search engine – I can barely find the stories I want using their key word search. What then, is the point of paying such a high subscription rate? Papers need to give us a reason to stay engaged with their online forum – the best way to accomplish this is to provide us with the social media apparatus that is now the “status quo” of the internet.

  18. I use twitter on a regular basis for several reasons including (a) post link to blog posts, (b) chat w/friends, (c) stay updated on my favorite topics, (d) “twitter stock” and (e) vent. Like me many individuals on twitter will post tweets highlighting their frustration with a person, product or service, and ,as with any medium, companies should pay attention to what’s being said about their product/service.

    Many companies, including Zappos, Dell and Comcast, have been using twitter to promote their product and enhance customer service. Although I think it’s great, and believe every company should do the same I realize not every company can keep track of what is being said on twitter. To track and monitor conversations requires the following:
    – time: the larger the company and network are, the more time it will take to scan conversations
    – human resources: Frank Eliason at Comcast has a team of 11 people
    – technical resources: several twitter applications need to be used because twitter.com alone isn’t enough

    Salesforce’s new add-on for companies to track and group customer complaints on twitter will make twitter a more valuable marketing and branding tool. Starting at $995 a month for five agents Salesforce will track and help answer problems allowing companies who hesitated tracking twitter or were struggling to keep with online conversations.

    while I don’t associate Comcast with great customer service, they were one of the first companies using twitter to enhance customer service and can provide Salesforce with training on “twitter etiquette.” Yet, after reading Eliason’s last quote (below) I hope that Salesforce isn’t just working with Eliason’s team to finalize their new add-on.

    “Engaging with customers is what works, not PR or marketing or customer-relationship ‘management.’ People respect a company w hen it’s not about the message, it’s about the personal relationship.”

    I have to disagree with Eliason. Engaging with customers is customer relationship management are an aspect of PR, and there are many factors that affect a person’s respect towards a company besides “personal relationship.”

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