The Tom-Tom: February 2009 Editor & Publisher Glenn Campbell

Glenn F. Campbell

The auto crisis has spawned at least three major proposals for communicating what their propounders think people and the Congress should hear. One asks for $50 million dollars. Another, a lobbying effort, and the third, advocated in a speech by incoming NADA chairman John McEleney, asks dealers “to tell state and national leaders and the public that dealers are an asset, not a liability.”  These sound like communications models based on the old “fortress” paradigm of the newspaper city room where editors decided what and how much their readers should know. The words “listen” and “engagement” are missing from the descriptions of these proposals.

But, they are not alone in ignoring the reality that the Internet makes journalists and publishers of us all.

From a Center for Media Research summary of a survey of 480 marketing executives, “Senior marketers admit their companies are failing to take decisive, company-wide action to integrate customer voice and experience into key business and marketing processes.” The study underscores critical deficiencies in the way companies measure, optimize and leverage customer experience to drive loyalty, improve brand value and increase business performance and growth.

Chrysler, at least, has initiated a listening program titled, “Chrysler’s Consumer Advisory Board.” Begun in early 2008 by a company named, “Passenger”, the CCAB now has a community of more than 2,000 Chrysler enthusiasts participating. According to Passenger executive, Emily Gates, “What’s unique about one of these communities,” she explains, “is that it’s less formularized, less hierarchical if you will, and more of a two-way back and forth with customers that you can have an ongoing dialogue with over time, vs. only once.”  She adds in a Behavioral Insider interview: “What we’ve found,” she says, “is that the people closest to a brand can be the most vociferous critics of the company. So it’s important going in that brands don’t expect sugarcoated comments because that’s not what customer collaboration creates. Fortunately the most sophisticated brands understand this and encourage honesty and transparency as the way to yield real insights and value.”