Being heard

In various reports about my Dell fit, the point is made that this is a larger blog and I got media attention. But the truth is that (1) I didn’t get one bit of help from Dell because of the blog or any media attention but only because I found a VP’s email address and (2) it doesn’t matter how many readers you have but only if you have the right one: that is, if the person in the company you’re talking about is smart enough to care what his or her constituents are saying. Case in point [via Jay Rosen]:

What happens when smaller fries harp online? Does corporate America listen?

Most of the time, probably not, but it’s interesting to watch when a blog post actually catches a company’s attention. That occurred earlier this year, when a North Carolina blogger, Jon Lowder, made a quiet complaint about his hometown paper, the Winston-Salem Journal, and compared it, unfavorably, with a newspaper 30 miles to the east, the Greensboro News & Record.

Part of the post read, “I live in Winston-Salem. I have the Winston-Salem Journal delivered every morning. But I don’t feel like I know anyone there… I get all the N&R blogs via RSS. I don’t get their paper… yet. But I still feel closer to the N&R.”

There are a million and one wistful comments like this on the web, but somehow this one got traction. For one thing, it was quoted by NYU’s Jay Rosen, the author of the PressThink blog, a widely read site.

For another, both the Winston-Salem Journal and the Greensboro News & Record responded to Lowder’s original blog post. Indeed, the News & Record’s top editor posted a brief reply.

More remarkable still, though, was what happened at the Winston-Salem Journal. Not only did the paper respond to the post and supply contact information, but it went and created an RSS feed just days after Lowder’s original post.

Now that’s customer service.

Now read Jon Lowder himself and see how damned impressed he is that he was heard. A thousand people could have read him, a million. But if the guy who could turn the right switch was asleep at it, then it wouldn’t have mattered. But somebody smart, somebody who gave a damn heard Lowder and did something. That is how any smart company should act in this new age. You don’t wait until the volume of complaint is deafening; you don’t have to. Now you can go online and search for what people are saying and then do something about it. You don’t need a megaphone or a press or a broadcast tower. All you need is a conversation.