Okay, I should have known better. I’ve been quoted out of context before. Usually it is in a mainstream publication and by a responsible reporter making a honest mistake. But sometimes a laugh line gets you in trouble, and this time the joke was on me.
I was presenting on building a marketing foundation for your business at the SugarCRM conference, SugarCon. The audience was supposed to be software resellers and consultants, but I ended up with a few customers and a reporter or two in the crowd. We talked about marketing and messaging and social media. And we got to open questions.
The question I got was phrased this way: “We are having a debate internally in our company about what we should publish from our customers surveys. Should we be totally transparent and publish good reviews and bad or just the good ones?” Notice, they were talking about surveys they did – not online reviews they wanted to edit or comments made in public spaces. This is an important distinction. When you survey your customers, you are doing so to get honest feedback and if you do it well, you also ask for permission to use their quotes in your marketing materials and your website. And if you get good quotes, you use them. Why would you publish privately provided information that was bad about your company?
So my response to this person was that I would not publish the bad reviews. They pressed me on this. They said something like “so isn’t it being dishonest if you are not totally transparent?” To which I responded “It’s marketing, not honesty”. Great turn of phrase. Got the laughs. Completely appropriate to the topic at hand – which again was about publishing some, all or none of the customer surveys provided to you in confidence. But taken out of context, boy does that quote sound like crap. And a Chelsi Nakano from CMS Wire took that quote out of context and used it for her punch line entry for her article – most of which was actually pretty favorable to me.
So why I am writing this? I guess 4 reasons:
- I hate being quoted out of context and this one deserved an explanation
- It’s a great reminder to anyone speaking in public anywhere to never assume you know who is in the audience and that they will take what you are saying the right way.
- It is instructive in that I would have never found this quote without using my own twitter search to see what was being said about my name – social media and web media is out there in the farthest reaches of the business universe
- Lastly to generally say sorry to any professional marketer who may feel like I damaged the overall credibility of good, honest, social marketing with the comment
Marketing has changed a lot in the last 5 years and there is nowhere to hide. You need to be honest and transparent and provide value. When a customer has a bad experience, they have all the tools to write about it. And when you ask for feedback, you will get it – many times at a higher return rate from unhappy customers that can now vent directly to you rather than to the anonymous twitter-sphere. But that doesn’t mean you air the dirty laundry that you went out to collect, in public. It means you do the wash and fix the issues.
Marketing’s role is still about showing your company, your skills and your product in the best light. So in the end, I do stand by the comment. You have to be honest in your marketing. And asking customers for feedback is critical – you can’t get better without it. But truthful marketing doesn’t mean telling everyone, everything, all the time.
I’d love your opinion on this – I’m always willing to learn a new perspective. Leave a comment.