Join the Conversation Early, not After the Damage is Done

If a conversation happens in a forest and you’re not there to be a part of it, did it really happen?

In the online world of social media – you bet your bottom dollar it did. And an entire network of friends, fans and followers heard it, participated in it and repeated it to their friends, fans and followers.

When I worked for a small town newspaper right out of college, we often joked the biggest threat to being scooped was the gossip that took place at a quaint diner downtown. There’s no message tool more effective than word of mouth – especially when the topic is heated, controversial or sensational. That’s how I like to think of social media. It’s not really all that new to those of us who understand how gossip works – it’s fast, can often be misleading (think the children’s game of telephone – the more you repeat something, the more inaccurate the message becomes) and sometimes damages someone’s reputation.

In my small town, key community leaders would often enjoy a cup of coffee early in the morning with a cantankerous group of retirees who were most influential in the art of word-of-mouth marketing (read gossip). Why? They understood to be a part of the conversation, no matter how uncomfortable it could sometimes be, was more effective than allowing someone’s else’s message about you to take a life of its own and influence your constituents, customers or business leads.

Fast forward to today. I’m sure my favorite club of good ‘ole boys is still meeting at that diner and probably couldn’t give a lick about what Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn are. But politicians and the business world are learning fast. When was the last time you looked up a restaurant on to read reviews by fellow Tucsonans? Has your apartment community received negative reviews on Is someone or some group collecting petition signatures via Twitter and Facebook to recall your elected seat?

If you don’t know – if you’re not online to hear the conversation, that doesn’t mean it’s not taking place and can’t adversely affect you. Maybe some of those small town community leaders aren’t so small town after all. Maybe they just better understand how important word of mouth marketing is – no matter whether it takes place in a forest, a diner or online. So as I finish typing this for you this morning, I raise my cup of tea to the most sophisticated marketing and public relations practitioners sitting right now at the CookEJar.

Cheers, boys!

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