Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Reflections on Jim Nail's Visit To Class (Cymfony)

On Monday our class had the opportunity to hear Jim Nail, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, from Cymfony. Jim and I have been at some of the same WOMMA conferences but we've missed each other somehow so his visit to the class was the first chance we had to meet in person. He's incredibly sharp and a genuinely great person to carry on a conversation with.

All of the students in the class found his presentation extremely informative. His talk was called "Responding to Negative Buzz: The Whens, Wheres, and How Tos." As you can guess from the title he spoke about how to deal with negative WOM and provided some excellent suggestions about whether or not to respond to negative WOM in the blogosphere, how to respond (directly or indirectly), and the level of response required (for example, just in the blogosphere or beyond).

Among the most important points I took away was a clear set of criteria to decide if and how an organization should respond to negative buzz. For example, in order to determine whether or not you should respond a company should ask the following three questions:
1) How core is the issue to your brand, reputation, and business?
2) Is the post influential? (Jim provided various quantitative and qualitative ways to assess this).
3) Are comments defending you? How well are they making your case?

If the answer is yes to #1, yes to #2, and not very well to #3 then you definitely want to respond! Then he goes on to tell you how and where to communicate with detractors. He also discussed the importance of proactive outreach and engagement with key online influencers (including a special section on new rules when interacting with bloggers).

In addition to using numerous case studies from companies like Wal-Mart, FedEx, and Kryptonite, the students really enjoyed it when Jim spoke about his own experiences responding to negative buzz about Cymfony's Knowledge Center.

My favorite part though was when he talked about the future of WOM marketing. He actually gave a very seasoned assessment of the nascent industry and stated three things that could detract from the incredible growth of WOMM:
1) Marketers messing it up by employing stealth tactics (he also reviewed WOMMA's ROI Ethics Code).

2) Marketers' tendency to focus on where the money is (so if a lot of money is being spent on a big ad buy then that's where the attention is and not on the important communication, listening, and relationship-building aspects of the marketers' role);

3) Viewing blogs as just another channel for traditional "push" and "control" approaches to marketing.
It was clear that Jim took great care and thought in preparing this talk for my class and it was definitely appreciated by us all. It was also a preview of some new ideas that I didn't mention here because they won't be publicly released until June 19th, so stay tuned for that!

Jim's undergraduate major was geology and he attended Williams College in Western MA. Although you wouldn't know it by looking at him he graduated in 1978, 7-8 years before the students in my class were born! (Jim mentioned that he wasn't trying to hide his age -- now that's transparency!).

Thanks for joining us Jim! (And congrats on being elected to WOMMA's Board of Directors!)



lsolomon said...

I really thought that Jim’s presentation was the most interesting of guest lectures’ I’ve seen in my entire college career. I thought he was very personable and it was really easy to listen to him and not only pay attention but look forward to more examples and information. It’s quite interesting to find out that he majored in geology in college; he seems very knowledgeable in his field! As you mentioned, I really appreciated that he made up this presentation for our class in particular, and he seemed to be really on the ball with what he was talking about – I’m sure he’s had to learn the right and wrong ways to respond through negative WOM the hard way, but he really seems to be an expert on the subject. All the examples and true stories were very interesting, and definitely helped the presentation.

Jim Nail said...

Walter: thanks for inviting me and for your kind comments about the presentation. Your students are entering a very different marketing world than I did, lo these 25 years ago. Your class will help prepare them for it and I hope my remarks contirubted. I hope you'll invite me back again!

JStephens said...

This was certainly an interesting guest lecture. It's nice to see someone as animated about his subject as Jim Nail was. It really gave off the sense that he likes what he does and certainly knows how to do it. I thought it was particularly interesting to hear about his own experience with negative word of mouth. It's one thing to hear that a negative experience occured, but to hear it coming from the person it was against was very interesting. It gave us a more realistic view of how people deal with it. I learned a lot from Jim Nail's lecture, and it really connected with a lot of the stuff we have been learning about in class. We've heard and studied so much about how companies use word or mouth to their advantage, so it was nice to see the other side of things, and how companies react to negative word of mouth about their product or service. Overall, Jim Nail was an engaging speaker who kept everyone's attention and interest in what he was presenting.

tanyak said...

I think my favorite part of the talk was when Jim Nail talked about his own experience with negitive buzz and how he handled it. Its easy to look at another company's negative buzz and how they handled it and judge them. When the situation isn't yours, your vision is clear and what to do is always so easy. However, when the pressure's on and its happening to you, its easy to choke or see the situation in a skewed light. Jim Nail told us exactly his thought process and how he analyzed the buzz. And then, how he made his decision on how to react. It was a lesson in itself. He used his own rules to a "T" and the situation was successful. The best part of it, was admitting that he had gotten negative buzz and it may not have been entirely off base. Accepting it as constructive criticism. Bravo!