Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Readers & employees respond to
Wells Fargo “Las Vegas” blog post.

I have been counseling my clients on the power of the blog and how customers & prospects can campaign for and against their services using the electronic word. While blogs like the Moleskinerie can be a love fest for the product (in that case a simple notebook), other blogs can spew venom about a company. I tell clients that, in either case, they need to be aware of what is being said about them. . . whether it’s from customers or employees.

Wells Fargo has been proactive in the blogging department. And, yesterday’s post in The Wells Fargo-Wachovia Blog, carried the headline “Wells Fargo Responds To Misleading Reports About Team Member Recognition Events.” They issued a very corporately-worded news release defending the bank’s position on the Las Vegas recognition event. And, what followed were a number of comments from readers, including some employees. In fact, some of the employees began arguing with respondents. This unfortunate exchange only compounds the PR nightmare for the bank and further angers the public. One respondent remarked to an employee, “shouldn't you be thankful you have the job and not like one of your fellow co-workers that have been laid off?”

blog.Truebridge picked up on the same Wells Fargo post and had this reaction, “Wells should be careful that their employees are not arguing with the customers who are responding.”

Wells Fargo does request that employees identify themselves in the interest of full disclosure. With the exchange that took place on the Wells Fargo blog, should bank marketing departments forbid or control employees’ access to commenting on the blog? Or, are employees foolish for even posting a comment, especially if it's negative? Is it similar to high school students posting photos of themselves engaged in illegal activities in which they're asking for trouble?

But back to the bank’s handling of the initial response to the event. I’m in the unusual position of having planned incentive programs with vacation awards to even more exotic places than Las Vegas (although not for Wells Fargo and not in the current economic environment). I understand the pros and cons of sponsoring such events for employees. But in this case, with the negative press (whether right or wrong), my PR brain tells me I would have issued a simple statement. A three word statement just as President Obama did concerning his problem with cabinet appointments. . . “I screwed up.”

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