Showing posts with label Forrester Research. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Forrester Research. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 12

Big Data Will Be The Blind Spot For Marketers

It's almost frightful how big big data will get. It's valuation is expected to reach $47 billion by 2017. It seems to me that estimate is too soft. Big data is like a boom town. I don't mean that figuratively.

The $4 billion Utah Data Center will eventually turn Bluffdale, Utah, and surrounding communities into boom towns. It's not the only place it will happen either. Government isn't the only player in big data.

Everybody wants an inside scoop on how individuals, groups, and mass populations operate for predictive and manipulative reasons. They want to uncover the non-existent philosopher's stone of human behavior so they can tell when someone who scratches their nose has malicious intent. They want to guess the direction of the public like they might plot the expected path of migrating geese. And they, marketers in particular, want to know which 140-character combination will not only get attention but also drive sales or, at least, pick up a follower that might buy a product within the next 100 tweets.

Some people will read that paragraph and feel spooked out. Some people will read it and salivate. It seems to me either might be an overreaction, but sometimes it's hard to tell. What is easy to tell is that big data will eventually lead to more blind spots than spoilers.

Analysts are too busy tracking online activity without concrete outcomes. 

Part of the problem, especially for marketers, is that they measure the wrong information. Forrester, ISTMA, and VisionEdge Marketing recently conducted a study that demonstrated precisely that.

What they found was that marketing performance management is operationally proficient but strategically stalled. The problem is exactly what you might think it is. Marketers are measuring marketing activity and not business outcomes, message effectiveness or predictive insights.

What does that mean? Marketers are too busy trying to prove performance to justify their efforts. They point to CRM and marketing automation to create dashboard reports that show how many people visited, shared and traveled down the sales funnel. They make decisions based on those measures too, and most of them revolve around the numbers they think matter, tying it to things like platform popularity.

It's not enough and I'm not the only one saying it. According to the analysts, only nine percent of CEOs and six percent of CFOs rely on marketing data to make decisions. In other words, most marketers have online clout and not the real stuff.

Big data will be rendered useless unless marketers measure on multiple levels. 

Less face facts. Although online sentiment can be useful, it's doesn't tell the whole story no matter how much money you throw at it. If it did, BP would not have survived the Gulf oil spill. If it did, JC Penney wouldn't be desperate after being right. In both cases, big data was off the mark.

Data needs to happen across every public, not just the public. Data needs to be discovered with multiple methods, not just one method. Even some of the most visible social media crisis events have been largely forgotten. Others were online loud, but many people never heard they happened.

You might find something different when you talk with people as opposed to react with them.

• Interviews. With the right interviewer, nothing beats a series of interviews. It's how some of our major clients have tapped my firm to write white papers. They work in other ways too. Once I interviewed 40 employees at a company that believed nobody saw the company like they did. I found out that they all saw the company the same way despite that belief.

Focus Groups. Brainstorming sessions and focus groups made up of trusted stakeholders or select demographics can transform reaction captures into think tanks. For example, when I conduct core and strategic sessions, the first 50 responses are often the least important. Once a group hits closer to 100, they start thinking about vision instead of what's expected.

Vetted Surveys. Instead of self-selected surveys, sometimes slanted with leading questions, try objective surveys (and control groups) with people who are solicited based upon belonging to a specific public or stakeholder group. Find out what they think of an organization, industry, and what's missing from the equation — not only what they expect but what they never thought to expect.

Big Data. As I mentioned before, big data has a place. Just remember that sometimes you have to distinguish between the public and customers. One example that comes to mind was the initial launch of the iPhone without physical buttons. The quieter majority of customers didn't care. They didn't seem to care that the USB port was left off their iPads either. Never-customers cared much more.

After you're done, don't forget that inside out is just as important as what's being said outside.

• Employees. No matter how great you think your organizational brand might be, it isn't all that if your employees don't believe it and protect it. Most social media crisis events happen because one employee forgets just how important every branded piece of communication can be.

Stakeholders. When working with the National Emergency Number Association (9-1-1), I was privy to some very intelligent ideas on improving emergency communication because the association's stakeholders included several dozen thought-leadership companies that had glimpses of future tech. Do you need another reason to talk to vendors, partners, shareholders, etc.?

• Customers. There is plenty that can be tracked when it comes to customers and there is much more to consider than a single click. The value of the lifetime customer is more. It's one of the reasons most major companies jumped at affiliate programs. Their marketing jumps in after one buy.

The Public. Looking at the public makes sense, but with obvious limitations. Listening to the public en masse can sometimes be a good thing because it often serves as a commonsense barometer. Other times, it isn't nearly as good because it can be manipulated by catfish or implied wrongdoing.

Doing all this work takes more time, which means you can't turn on a dime with every decision. But then again, if an organization could turn on a dime then its brand relationship must be pretty thin. Or maybe the better way to say it is: isn't it commonsense to talk to people if you want to understand them?

Monday, October 29

Building Brands: The Social Media Connection

There are three takeaways from a new report on social media and brand building by Forrester Research. Marketers might find them familiar. Some social media practitioners might not. But suffice to say that social might be more of a brand reinforcer than a builder, something we've said all along.

• Social media is part of brand building, but not a standalone solution.
• Social media provides the story, leveraging emotional elements.
• Social media improves the relationship with engagement and loyalty.

All three takeaways point to the same assumptions, however. Organizations have to employ social media as an effective tool or tactic and not as a magical strategy simply designed to give awareness a lift. Too many companies view social that way today. They count likes and followers instead of brand reinforcement, repeat business, and customer engagement.

One of the best lines in the report is right up front. Principal author Tracy Stokes points out that many organizations are asking the wrong question. They are asking "what is the social strategy?" instead of "how does social media change the brand strategy?" Personally, I might even ask a different one all together.

Are we living up to our brand across every connection and contact?

Among marketing leaders, most of them get part of it. Ninety-two percent believe that social media has fundamentally changed how consumers engage with brands. But what doesn't add up is that only half of all marketing professionals see their social media efforts as strategically integrated into brand plans.

Part of the challenge is simply because social media is still in its infancy. Sure, social has come into its own as a tool, with almost every marketer (B2C and B2B) seeing it as a relevant marketing tool. But what I mean when I say it is in its infancy is that the tail still wags the dog or, in other words, social media and social networks control the brand.

It's not all that different from television when it first burst onto the scene. Advertisers would walk onto the show set with a product easel and talk about the product. These advertiser cameos were often stiff and unconvincing, but consumers didn't care because nobody had done anything different.

That slowly began to change, with one of the first examples being a 10-second spot that aired before a baseball game. The commercial, without any interference (a spokesperson and easels), was pretty shabby (even for $9), but what Bulova attempted to do was establish a brand message on its terms.

It took some time for most brands to catch on. Years after Bulova, even McDonald's struggled to break away from the idea that people wanted brands to have pretend dialogue with them. McDonald's did much better when it started advertising skits in the vein of Sid and Marty Krofft.

It isn't much different than how many social media practitioners act today. They jump on a network and then adopt the platform, sometimes trying to jump into trending conversations. Brands ought to work harder establishing what consumers can expect from their presence, making sure it reinforces the brand and not just coupons and gimmicks for the favor of a connection (unless it the brand is price-point driven).

And even then, it cannot neglect that brands are established by an integrated communication strategy. The Forrester white paper delivers a few good ideas. They range from humanizing a company and creating groundswell for riskier ideas to correcting a negative image and working toward common causes. You might notice that all four of these ideas are measurable beyond awareness and attention.

What will the future look like for social media?

The topic deserves a post on its own, but some ideas are already moving full steam ahead. Forrester is looking at the unification of corporate and brand identity, connection planning (not channel planning), and tent pole events that give brands a lift as opposed to trying to deliver 24-7 messaging.

All three are good ideas. Our own research shows that offline communication is critical for most organizations. It gives the company an opportunity to talk about events before, during, and after the fact. Because these conversations directly relate to consumers on their terms, it creates more touch points — from curiosity about the event to real-time reporting to post-event conversations, which give people who didn't attend an idea of what they missed and those who did attend some fond memories.

But all of it, regardless of what is done, will share a commonality. It will all tie back to the brand. And the brand identity, although some people argue otherwise, will be established and managed by the company (not by social media). Specifically, brand managers will be charged with making sure that everything done at every level of the company keeps the brand in mind. And if it doesn't, then the organization will adjust or adopt a new brand that they can live up to.

If you are interested in the white paper, you can find it online here. One word of caution. Like many white papers, it is being offered in exchange for including your name on a lead generation list.

Monday, July 9

Marketing Affiliates: Are They Worth The Time?

Rakuten LinkShare released the results of its June 2012 Forrester Consulting study. The study was commissioned to determine the direct and indirect value of affiliate marketing, but its importance reveals compelling data for social media and online advertising as well.

Specially, the report demonstrates why social media and similar marketing efforts cannot be measured like direct response, with definitive paths to product purchases. This is especially interesting because affiliate marketing pays publishers based on direct clicks to the point of purchase.

Key findings about affiliate marketing from Forrester.

• Affiliate marketing spending is on the rise and will keep pace with digital marketing through 2016. Total marketing spending will increase from about $2.5 billion to $4.5 billion in four years.

• Affiliate making channels produce more new-to-file customers and generates incremental customer acquisition. Some brands report 50 percent of the traffic received by affiliate marketers are new buyers.

• Affiliate marketing channels attract consumers that spend more than the average online shopper. The difference is approximately $500 more per year, with average shoppers spending about $1,300 per year. 

• Affiliate marketing channels trigger brand recognition and can close the sale for online shoppers. Online shoppers typically visit four sites before making a purchasing decision. 

• Affiliate promotions have a positive impact on an advertiser's brand reputation and loyalty. Almost half of all consumers report a positive feeling when they see special offers on multi-brand sites and blogs.

"The study reflects how the affiliate marketing industry is strongly aligned with today's value-driven, always connected consumer who typically visits multiple sites before making a purchase," said Scott Allan, senior vice president of global marketing, Rakuten LinkShare. "As interactive marketing budgets grow and evolve, affiliate marketing will continue to be a key, measurable tactic for brands and retailers to attract and acquire new customers."

Considering the crossover as it relates to social media. 

• Investments in digital advertising, online marketing, and social media are continuing to rise whereas other mediums have flattened or demonstrated a loss in the last ten years.

• Third-party introductions and endorsements have become increasingly important to prospects before they consider new products and services as opposed to direct path purchases. 

• Shoppers may visit multiple sources to learn about products and services, even when they already have a connection to the brand, which makes outreach as important as direct communication. 

• Shoppers who visit more than one source for promotions, coupons, and reviews online are much more likely to make a purchase and spend more than people who are dedicated to a channel. 

• While some people question third-party endorsements and agendas, the majority of consumers are unconcerned because they are visiting more than one source of information.  

One of the more interesting aspects of the study is that consumers have a general presumption that brands will offer better deals on multi-brand sites and blogs than they will on their own sites. The study also hints at the influence of review sites frequently visited by consumers. They are nearly four times more likely than average buyers to try a new brand after seeing and receiving a new offer.

The study has been made available online. If you would like to read the study, find it here. The download does require several content fields, including an email address and phone number. 

Wednesday, February 24

Going For Gold: How To Win With Social Media


Social media experts, social network managers, and bloggers could learn something from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. There are 2,636 athletes from 76 countries competing in 15 sports, which have additional variations in form and technique. All of these athletes are different.

Each and everyone of them has a different attitude, approach, skill, technique, style, and degree of teamwork. And yet, they share a common bond in that they all represent the best of the best in winter sports. So does social media.

Every time I read a well-meant post about how social media should be approached, I cringe a little bit. Should doesn't really have a place in communication, let alone social media. In an environment where more than 69 million people might define social media as playing Farmville, who's to say what should or should not be done? Either it works or it doesn't.

Sure, there was significant back and forth when Forrester Research reset its analyst blogging policy. You can find one of the most comprehensive and thoughtful summations offered by Shel Holtz. However, while his conclusion may or may not line up with what works for Forrester Research (it's too soon to tell), his conclusion certainly doesn't work for social media. Here's why...

How To Win Online Like An Olympian.

Know Your Sport.

Can you imagine what might happen if figure skaters approached pairs like ice hockey? I doubt Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China would not have taken home the gold in figure skating pairs for a body check. I also doubt that Jarome Iginla of Canada dreams of a reverse rotational lift with Alex Ovechkin from Russia.

Social media is much like that. Different niches develop their own sense of the sport. Foodie bloggers and mommy bloggers are different from business bloggers and communication bloggers (though some blend the elements). Even in communication, there are variations. Advertising, public relations, marketing, social media, and communication education all approach social media differently (and the best of them tend to manage client social media efforts differently too).

Know Your Game.

Not everyone believed that Evan Lysacek from the United States could win gold without the all-important quadruple jump. He did. Lysacek edged out Yevgeni Plushenko from Russia with an overall routine featuring better jumps, spins, and footwork. Meanwhile, Daisuke Takahashi from Japan employed a much more playful style to win bronze.

Social media is much like that. Long format or short format, lists or no lists, personal or formal, pictures or no pictures, comments or no comments, video or no video — all of it is as diversified as various sports. What really matters is that any individual blog or online community excel at whatever sport it might be similar to.

Know Your Team.

In the Olympics, not every team is the same. It takes a different kind of team to be part of a four-man blobsled than it does to play hockey. Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue had to consider each other's strengths to win gold in figure skating pairs. Shaun White didn't have any partner limitations in landing a gravity-defying double McTwist 1260 in snowboarding.

Social media is much like that. One of the things that Forrester Research did was reconsider how it views the team. Holtz doesn't have any such limitation. He is an all star, even when he plays for a team. Seth Godin has a different style too, one that is much more independent and isolated. Yet, it works for the people who read his books and blog.

Know What Matters.

Apolo Anton Ohno is one of the most popular Olympians on Twitter, with almost six times the followers of Lysacek. Does that mean Lysacek might consider giving up his gold medal figure skating success in favor of the short track? Does it mean he is less of an Olympian?

That would be silly to think so. And yet, it's not so silly to some people in social media who adopt a prevailing thought among communication bloggers. Some are torn between being more conversational or controversial because their colleagues seem more popular. The truth is that their comparison neglects that they might be in a different sport with a different style and a different team approach.

When bloggers align themselves with what the most popular people are doing based on perceived success, they've lost. In most cases, with some exceptions, the most popular reach a perceived success by knowing what sport, game, and team approach they want to take. And then, they play it perfectly.

Sure, some copycats can duplicate what those who came before them did. (It's very simple to do in social media circles, if all you care about is numbers.) But they will never quite measure up with compelling ideas because they are trying to be something they are not. So, popularity aside, maybe people ought to do what works for them or their organizations.

After all, the best sky jumpers don't dream of being figure skaters, they set their sights on being the best jumpers that they can be. How about you? Do you feel a disconnect with the sport you chose because it's less popular, flashy, or self-reliant? Don't be. Just be the best you can be. Or, if you're working in social media for an organization, make it the best it can be.

This is how I've come to view the Forrester Research policy change and the conversation that lingers on. Forrester Research is trying to be the best it can be.

And when you look at the Forrester Research case without the emotive buzz of taking something away from all-star analysts, then you realize Forrester didn't change sports. What it changed was the team approach and style of play.

Instead of picking star players from NHL teams, Forrester wants to play like the Herb Brooks' 1980 Miracle team. Does it matter? It doesn't matter if they continue to score shots for their clients. Conversely, it might matter if individual players feel less empowered to take opportunity shots that still score for the team. Time will tell.

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Monday, December 14

Predicting Trends: Ad Agencies Brace For 2010


Earlier this month, David Poltrack, chief research officer for CBS, predicted broadcast advertising revenue will increase 5 percent next year. Poltrack made the case that with the exception to some cable networks and NBC paying too much attention to overnight ratings, an increase in broadcast ad buys is good news for agencies.

While this might be good news for advertising agencies, Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP Group, isn't as excited about incremental improvements. Like Sorrell, several holding company CEOs are pointing to extreme client cost-cutting as the main reason they expect flat organic growth in 2010. Most predict broadcast ad spending to increase less than one percent. Sorell himself said that an economic recovery is the only thing that will reverse the trend.

"I don't understand this degree of optimism. Basically, things are less worse than they were," he summed last week.

So which is it?

Brian Morrissey, writing for Adweek, presented an interesting perspective that finds the balance between marginal growth and no growth for advertising agencies. It might not be the economy. It might be a fundamental shift in the kind of agencies winning accounts.

"Yet the general expectation is that the number of these jobs will increase, particularly as digital initiatives become core not only as marketing channels, but as internal drivers of innovation," he wrote, citing Ameriprise, which was won over in a review that included Publicis & Hal Riney, as an example.

Whether or not you believe digital agencies can take the lead over traditional shops is less important than pinpointing what is happening in traditional shops today. By in large, many are missing a piece of the puzzle for 2010. It's not the economy. It's everything else.

The truth about "traditional" advertising agencies in 2010.

The moniker alone is one challenge. If advertising agencies get stuck with the label that they are traditional, they may be dead in the water within five years. Successful agencies, by their nature, have never been "traditional," a term that now applies to an overemphasis on big budget broadcast creative and ad buys. Unfortunately, that focus will not likely pay the rent next year.

Worse for "traditional" agencies attempting to wait out the economy will be the perfect storm. Despite being well-suited to move into social media, most have been lax in the uptake of the low cost counterpart. The result is three-fold beyond the moniker: agencies have adopted hiring freezes, demoralizing their creative teams; budgets are shifting toward digital, reducing mainstream budgets; and the lack of movement to understand the space at a slower pace than public relations has helped fuel their primary competition, which is generating increased revenue that will allow them to steal away "traditional" talent.

If you need more evidence, think back to the Forrester Research survey that found of 100 global interactive marketers, only 23 percent believed their "traditional brand agency" is capable of planning and managing interactive marketing activities; 46 percent did not believe they were capable. Where the Forrester Research study stops, however, is in adding the economic pressures of marketers over the last two years.

Unlike when advertising agencies were slow to pick up Websites as a viable marketing channel but then recovered by buying up Website design companies, many agencies are struggling too much this time around to repeat the process. So unless Sorrell and other holding company CEOs adjust their thinking beyond the economy, it seems likely digital agencies really will be in a better position to steal seasoned creatives, capture traditional accounts, and reshape the field.

Monday, August 31

Turning Channels: Consumers Choose The Internet


If you're looking for more evidence that social media needs to be part of any communication plan, consider that social media is mainstream for more than 90 percent of all Americans. In fact, according to Forrester Research, four in five Americans use a social media platform at least once a month. More than half gravitate to services like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.

The Big Picture, By The Numbers

According to Forrester Research, adults over the age of 34 increased their participation in social networks by more than 60 percent. Older audiences have also adopted social media, with 70 percent of online adults ages 55 and older using social media tools at least once a month (26 percent use social networks and 12 percent create social content). Here are more numbers to reinforce the Forrester survey...

• As reported by USA Today, 250 million people are now members of Facebook, spending 13.9 billion minutes on the social network.

• About 30 million Facebook members already access social networks through mobile devices. ad:tech estimates mobile marketing is expected to grow over $24 billion worldwide in 2013 from $1.8 billion in 2007.

• According to comScore, Twitter users spend 66 percent more dollars on the Internet than non-Twitter users. They invested 300 million minutes on the site in April.

• LinkedIn has more than 365,000 company profiles. More than 12 million small business professionals are members of LinkedIn.

• More than 1 million small businesses and individuals promote their goods and services on MySpace. This is despite its steady decline in usage.

• The fastest-growing segment on the Internet is over 35, representing more purchasing power than any single traditional medium can deliver on its own. Even television is being outpaced by the Internet in terms of time invested, which is why most networks are migrating online.

Digital Media, By The Numbers

According to comScore, 158 million U.S. Internet users watched online video during this month, making it the largest viewing audience to date. More than 21.4 billion videos were viewed.

• 81 percent of the total U.S. Internet audience viewed online video.

• The average online video viewer watched 500 minutes of video, or 8.3 hours.

• 120.3 million viewers watched 8.9 billion videos on YouTube.com (74.1 videos per viewer).

• 48.2 million viewers watched 518.6 million videos on MySpace.com (10.8 videos per viewer).

What It Means For Businesses

Forrester Research has been a long-time proponent of integrated marketing approaches, conducting several studies that indicate traditional media's broken business model and fragmented audiences have disrupted traditional strategies. But beyond typically measured growth trends — numbers of members and time spent online — there are several key trends companies will have to consider as they integrate social media into the mix. Here are five:

• The average person will only follow or support a finite number of products and companies, making the social media program just as important as the product. People do not want constant updates as much as they want added value and original content.

• While the largest services — Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace — are current darlings, several social networks have sparked and then sputtered as policies change, services change, and companies are bought out. The social media space is constantly changing, making long-term strategy more important than short-term tactics.

• The chances that customers will seek out companies, products, or services on social networks is remarkably slim. Agencies and public relations firms that attempt to bill friends and followers as the ultimate measure are short-selling clients as many people join groups or follow companies and promptly ignore them. Measurement doesn't end with a connection.

• Media-Internet convergence means an increased need to consider mobile marketing. With new portable products coming online in the months ahead from Apple and others attempting to follow them, every company ought to be thinking about digital content not based on singular devices (phones, computers, etc.), but based on scalability and portability.

• Companies that engage people online have already seen an average increase in revenue by 18 percent, while those that did not saw a decline in revenue by 6 percent over the last year. Eventually, companies that ignore social media tools will fade away, much like those that didn't adopt the telephone years and years ago.

Wednesday, March 18

Ruffling Feathers: Jeremiah Owyang


Jeremiah Owyang, analyst for Forrester Research, left dozens of people scratching their heads in his coverage of what seems to be a crisis looming in the background at Mzinga. Mzinga, if you don't know, manages more than 14,000 online communities for companies such as Virgin Media, GMAC Mortgage, and John Deere.

According to Owyang, he has been been hearing from multiple sources that Mzinga is undergoing some changes, which includes the voluntary leave of the CMO. Under normal circumstances, this is common fare for company coverage. However, these circumstances aren't common as Owyang took his coverage a step further.

"It’s my obligation to have my clients (sic) best interest in mind, and this is the fastest way for me to reach them, by using the tools where we’re already connected," wrote Owyang. "I strongly recommend that any Mzinga clients or prospects stall any additional movement till they brief me next Monday."

In the very next line, he promises to be fair and balanced. And, more perplexing to some, he teased the post on Twitter by more or less stating that people should not perpetrate rumors. Owyang has since apologized for his post.

So what went wrong for Owyang and what can be learned?

One reason reporters tend to become cynical is that they often learn insider information that they cannot confirm. So, unless reporters can substantiate any speculation with fact, they might leave an issue on the back burner until something finally surfaces (if it ever does). Or, they might share what their insider information is, but stop short of calling the game.

What seems to be is that Owyang, who says he had the best intentions, attempted to play the middle. He decided against sharing the insider information but wanted to protect his clients (and companies beyond his clients) based on the information he had obtained. It might seem like a good idea, but it's an extremely dangerous position because it fails on both fronts.

I might point out that this says nothing about Owyang as a person. There are plenty of people who will defend him as one of the most respected names in the social media industry. However, just because people are ethical and have good judgement doesn't exempt them from mistakes. And this was a mistake.

While having a conversation about this subject with Christina Kerley (who brought this story to my attention) on Twitter, I pointed to Article 8 of the International Association of Business Communicators Code of Ethics, which suggests "Professional communicators protect confidential information and, at the same time, comply with all legal requirements for the disclosure of information affecting the welfare of others."

I didn't elaborate then, but I will now. Either Owyang had compelling information that affected the welfare of others, which would require it be shared. Or he did not, which would have precluded him from making such a heavy handed recommendation.

So to answer Jon Burg's question — should a blogger share an important or compelling rumor? — it depends. Personally, I try (with admittedly some slippage now and again) to never use the word "should," but if a blogger (or anyone) has compelling evidence, especially if affects the welfare of others, then they are better off sharing it, with qualification, to justify any recommendation on their part.

In other words, if "that" then "this" is fair. But Owyang only alluded to having "that," which means his "this" overreached, making it look like a power play from an industry analyst apparently unable to get the answers he wanted, using mostly Twitter to do so.

As for what could have happened, it seems to me that notifying clients would have best been left to private communication. Any public comment might have recognized that if you are in for a pinch, you are in for a pound. And, on something this sensitive, unless you cover public communication like I do, social media isn't the best fact-gathering mechanism. Sometimes you have to pick up the phone a few times.

So what went wrong for Mzinga and what can be learned?

While Mzinga probably didn't deserve the recommendation that could have caused a much larger crisis than whatever crisis it may be facing, the company hasn't performed much better in managing its communication. There is obviously some sort of crisis (one they intended to answer on Monday) and an unwillingness to address the situation sooner is paramount to confirming it.

Mzinga employee Dave Wilkins' comment on Burg's blog presents one revelation ... "… I'm not really in the right position to respond officially anyway. I do want to clarify a couple of things however."

What's the revelation? In the interim between Mzinga not addressing rumors and promising to address the rumors, the company's employees are left with the daunting task of addressing issues that they are not in the right position to address, which just adds more fuel to the fire.

Some, it seems, have taken to leaving nasty anonymous comments on Owyang's blog. Others demanded apologies while poking back at Owyang. And even more, vendors included no less, chimed in too. Heck, even "former" CMO Patrick Moran is speaking on behalf of a company that has left its communication to reckless abandon.

How reckless? Someone asked me "What leads you to believe that this is a 'crisis'? Is it because the rumor mill says that it is? While the company may be going through some changes, I have seen nothing other than the rumors here and on JKO's blog that indicate there is a 'crisis'."

Give me a break. When rumors of a dramatic and possibly negative change become the only message, overshadowing everything else that the company does or says, it is a crisis. Denial doesn't make it not a crisis; it only makes it louder.

If you don't manage the message, the message will manage you. And from the looks of it, Mzinga isn't managing this one. If it had, there would be no Owyang post to be ruffled about.

If you're still confused, here's the oversimplified version.

1. Mzinga has some sort of a change ahead (small, big, whatever) and did not properly address it, which led to increased negative speculation and rumors. The fact that they promised to address it (Monday) suggests something is going on.

2. Owyang had some information, and then attempted to balance "not wanting to share it without verification" and "wanting to share it because it could impact his clients, colleagues, etc." In attempting to do right by everyone, he did right by no one. He also apologized; lesson learned.

3. Mzinga is now making a tremendous mistake by offering no easily identifiable response, leaving employees and vendors to deliver what can only be called runaway crisis communication, which promises to end badly for them. The last published press announcement was on Feb. 26.

In sum, for as much as Owyang admittedly did the wrong thing, Mzinga's crisis communication management is as much of a train wreck as the Jobster crisis communication management three years ago. The whole situation reads like amateur hour, which makes it all the more worthwhile to cover as a case study. What's the takeaway today? If you don't know what you're doing, hire someone who does.
 

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