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Customer Evangelists or Corporate Hacks?

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The New York Times captured the whole new era of customer evangelism with blogs.

I read the article, thought it was interesting, and then moved on to sleeping and working. Other issues, you know.

Then, while reading about the Tivo blog today, and about McDonald’s customer (fanatic) evangelist on Synagogue of the Customer (writing church just seems odd), made me think about the differences between corporate evangelist blogs, true consumer evangelist blogs, and the old school days of enthusiast Websites that seem more and more relevant today, and how I pitched them years ago – which I will address when I get the video from Mike Dunn on the panel at BlogOn.

In the article, the Times noted such blogs as Hacking Netflix, Tracking Trader Joe’s and The BarqsMan. Those, to me, are true customer evangelists, as they are working on their own and are blogging out of the love of the product. As noted, Barq’s parent company did not know about the blog. As noted, McDonald’s is tracking the conversation at McChronicles. And, while Coke should have clued in to the one blog, it’s good that Mickey D’s is looking at the conversation. And, that’s what in-house corporate PR people and/or PR firms should be doing: tracking conversations, and jumping in when needed, or hey, even offering previews of new products, new offerings … you know, the old school PR skill of working with media, being that bridge.

Those blogs are on the up-and-up and honest, while I take the Tivo and Vespa blogs with a box of salt since there is too much corporate involvement. Too much like Astroturfed blogs.

While others point to the Tivo blog as great, to me it’s too akin to Astroturf. If you are on the corporate server, and blogging for the corporate, you are a corporate evangelist. It’s not any different than the Vespa blogs – those aren’t customer evangelists, they are corporate evangelists handpicked by Vespa and its PR firm, who were seasoned bloggers to begin with. While I have no doubt that the Vespa bloggers and the Tivo blogger are enthusiasts, by being part of the fold it does give you pause to wonder how involved the corporate is – despite claims that they are not.

Now, I am all for blogs and customer evangelists. It’s just when corporations get involved and launch customer evangelist blogs, you know there are going to be issues. Blogs are great tools and great grassroots efforts, but sometimes corporations try too hard. And, this is no different than the dreaded character blog.

As David Parmet noted, calling those blogs customer blogs is like saying Scoble is a Microsoft customer evangelist. He’s a corporate evangelist.

Reader Comments

Jeremy Pepper is the CEO and founder of POP! Public Relations, a public relations firm based in Arizona, USA.

He authors the popular Musings from POP! Public Relations blog which offers Jeremy’s opinions and views – on public relations, publicity and other things.

Customer Evangelists or Corporate Hacks?
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