Online Reputation Management: What We Can Learn From AT&T’s Latest PR Debacle

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The Dangers of Not Having A Website

Not having a website is like voluntarily wearing a muzzle.

Clients regularly come to Blue Fountain Media looking for help with their online reputation. These clients fall into two categories: a) Those who want to build their online presence in general; and b) Those who want to build an online presence in response to specific events.

Problems inevitably occur in business, and it's important to be prepared. Having a web presence means you have a forum to communicate with the outside world. If When something happens, people will turn to your website and blog for information.

Here's an example of a big company neglecting their online presence and (probably) regretting it:

An Example: AT&T Has Trouble Communicating

iPhone sales have been halted in New York City and AT&T has given no explanation.

iPhone Results on Google News

Over 500 news articles about the New York iPhone debacle

Last night The Consumerist & CNET reported that AT&T had stopped selling the iPhone in the greater New York area. News immediately spread though the internet and the story was almost quickly picked up by the main stream media (e.g. New York Times, CNN). With no direct channel for finding out information about AT&T, the media ended up quoting numerous conflicting sources.

Here are some of the justifications that were reported:

Sales were suspended due to "increased fraudulent activity in that area when ordering the iPhone" --AT&T Support Representative

"We periodically modify our promotions and distribution channels." --AT&T Spoksman

"New York is not ready for the iPhone. You don't have enough towers to handle the phone." --AT&T Support Representative

How could a company not know the reason behind suspending sales of its flagship product to their largest market for that product? And more significantly, how could a communications company do such a poor job communicating?

Google Search for "ATT Blog"

A search for "ATT Blog" turns up no official AT&T blog

As the web buzzed about the halting of iPhone sales and the potential cause, I tried to look for an official response or statement from AT&T. A Google search for "ATT blog" returned a bunch of results on other websites--mostly blogs talking about the iPhone sales halting. Other searches also resulted in simalar dead ends. I just couldn't find an AT&T blog. Either they don't have a blog or it's just impossible to find.

This means that when I do a Google search about the problem, instead of an official explanation or at least a note that they're looking into the problem, I was forced to find out news from third-party sources.

What We Can Learn

If AT&T Wireless did have a blog (and they actually used it), it would have been virtually guaranteed to be the top result of any iPhone-related searches today. AT&T could have posted their official response and the entire blogosphere would have linked to it. Instead, they kept everyone guessing with vague responses and no clear official spokesperson for the company.

The Internet is one big conversation. Having a strong web presence means that if you ever need to insert yourself into the conversation, you can. Without a web presence, you give up control of your message and your brand.

Don't Let This Happen To You

Give your web presence a kick start. Blue Fountain Media can help you plan your website, blog, or social media presence. To speak to us about our Online Reputation Management services, request a quote or contact us on 212-260-1978.

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