Imagine a scenario where you go to a restaurant and the waiters delay to even notice your presence. Eventually, they do and one casually strolls towards you and asks what you need. You beg to have a look at the menu and it takes her about five minutes more to remember she was meant to give you one.
Anyway, the menu comes and after you have looked at it you make your order but half of the things you have asked for you are quickly told how they are not available anymore and so you keep changing until you settle for a rather unpleasant combination of foods just so that you can stay alive.
When the food finally makes its way to your table, the sauce is as cold as a dog’s nose.
You decide to eat the food anyway but during the whole ordeal you are thinking of how to get back and have your pain heard and addressed. You look around for a suggestion box and there is none. You inquire from the waitress whether the manager is around and you get a negative response.
The next day you sit down and write a scathing letter and send it to a newspaper and when it appears in the papers the following week the owner/manager of the establishment makes an effort to explain how apologetic they are and that it is not common practice anyway.
The above scenario has become quite outdated lately and this has only served to make the life of public relations officers more complicated. A few years back where the above situation was common, all a public relations person would do was keep an eye on the letters page in the daily newspaper or occasionally look at the contents of the suggestion box that was visible at almost all establishments worth a name.
Today, the suggestion boxes have disappeared and few people even have the time to sit and write something for the local newspaper. Instead there are multitudes of platforms where people vent their anger and it may almost be impossible for the PR team to keep an eye on all of them in order to control the damage in a timely manner.
Some have tried to keep an eye on platforms like Facebook and Twitter but even these are too robust for one to keep a keen eye. Even with presence on these forums a customer’s rants may not be picked up by the PR radar simply because they do not follow the person on Twitter and are not friends on Facebook.
Others express their dissatisfaction on personal blogs that may not be read by many. So by the time people catch wind of a rant it is months old and the establishment is accused of delaying to address the matter. You also have Yahoo or Google groups (mailing lists) that have also become a window for people to vent their frustrations among other things.
What all this means is that big companies should not risk operating with a thin skeleton staff for their PR work. This is because, it is now practically impossible for say one person to keep an eye on what clients are saying on all these various and diverse forums and also respond in a timely manner.