The Dallas/IABC poll on how to handle angry bloggers — the complete answers and numbers

On July 7, the Bulldog Reporter’s Daily’ Dog has published a piece about a recent poll on how corporate PR should manage “angry bloggers“. The article stated that the online poll

asked more than 300 communicators to choose one response to the question, “Who should respond to angry external bloggers—media relations or customer service?”

The fact that “46 percent of respondents believed bloggers should be ignored, or managed by customer relations departments” caused a storm in the e-cup (thanks for this expression, Richard!).

I contacted Roy Miller, president of Dallas/IABC, and asked him if I can get access to the original questions posted on the chapter’s website. He responded promptly, and sent me not only the original questions, but also the number of people who responded to each question. Here they are:

Number of Voters: 50
Period: June 1st – July 2nd, 2006

Question: Who should respond to angry external bloggers – media relations or customer service?

1. Definitely media relations. They are the company spokespeople. – 21 votes (42%)
2. Customer service. Bloggers are not members of the press and should be treated like any other consumer. – 16 votes (32%)
3. No one. Bloggers should just be ignored. – 7 votes (14%)
4. I don’t know. – 3 votes (6%)
5. Neither. This responsibility doesn’t belong to either of these teams. – 3 votes (6%)

A couple of notes:

  • This was a “quick poll”, not a poll; not a survey, not a study. Dallas/IABC has such surveys posted on its website every single month.
  • Since it’ was on the web, anyone was able to vote, not only IABC members. (I voted two days ago on the keynote speaker for the chapter’s annual conference.) So the results are saying nothing about how IABC communicators think about the question asked in the poll.
  • The press release alluded to this limitation (the quick poll “is an interactive Web site feature that provides a timely snapshot of what chapter members and other site visitors think about current issues and trends.“) However, the acknowledgment didn’t made it to the Bulldog‘s article.
  • In fact, Bulldog Reporter‘s reporting was totally absent: they just (slightly) rephrased the press release. What about verification?
  • The press release itself is misleading, when it says that “the poll asked more than 300 communicators to choose one response.” False: the poll asked every single visitor -not only the 300 members of IABC/Dallas- to respond to the poll.
  • The release -and the article- added the number of votes for responses to the second and third question. Confusing.
  • Both the release and the article are missing the most important number: how many people responded to the poll, anyway? Only 50.
  • So, it’s not 46% of 300, it’s 46% of 50.
  • In fact, only 7 people (from 50) said that bloggers should be ignored.
  • (rant ahead) Last, but not least: let’s say that a large percent of respondents said that the “angry external bloggers” should be tackled by customer service, not PR. So what? How is that different than what Microsoft developers are doing when they are responding -on their blogs or on other bloggers’ comments- to the complaints about MS’s products? Sure, it’s not the classic understanding of “customer service” – but still. And how many bloggers will want a flack to respond to their complaints, anyway? What a PR person can do is to make the connection between the customer experiencing a problem with the employee that can solve that problem, ASAP. (rant over :)

And another thing: here’s the quote attributed to Roy Miller, president of Dallas/IABC, in the press release:

Corporate communicators must accept and acknowledge a blogger’s ability to spread information– the good, bad and the ugly. Ignoring them and not responding quickly just sets up an organization to be-best case-inaccurately represented; worst case, to be demonized. Treat bloggers with the same respect and responsiveness you’d have for any member of the media.

Prescient words. So, why didn’t Roy commented on the blogs writing about this topic, in order to prevent IABC’s inaccurate representation? I really don’t know.

To conclude: a misleading press release issued for an irrelevant “quick poll,” reproduced -without verification or correction- by an online publication and dissected by bloggers who didn’t had access to the original results manages -without any base on facts- to portray the Texan IABCers as communicators who “just don’t get it.” Nice reputation-building exercise.

Note: I promised Roy Miller that if he wants to post a response to this post (or to any other post on this issue) I will offer him the space of this blog.