Learning the hard way: Bloggers court case.

A business is using “traditional” tactics to deal with a blogger operating in the new world.

Will it work or will it blow up in their faces?

This post refers to a blog written by Donn Edwards who blogs at “Insights and Rants”

Donn has been sued by a Timeshare company “The Quality Vacation Club” (QVC) for claiming that he had been misled by the company into attending a prize giving ceremony for a car when in effect it was merely a sales presentation for QVC.

His blog goes on to document some comical errors which appear to have been made by QVC and their legal team.

I and many others have had very similar experiences to what Donn Edwards reports except that I have no idea what timeshare set up is involved as I am immediately suspicious of this tactic, and although the telesales person denies that it is in fact “a timeshare presentation”, when they appear to be able to reschedule the “prize giving” event at will it just appears to be too good to be true and I have not attended.

The events bring some interesting dynamics into play.

Firstly Donn Edwards is a blogger, his instinct is to share his daily experiences in his blog in the same way a different generation may have phoned a friend. Bloggers blog – simple.

Secondly the existence of networks in the online world can quickly distribute information.

We need to remember the key drivers in the online world:

Generating content

Sharing content

Influence

Donn wrote about the court case in his blog on Sunday, November 30, after the report featured here appeared in the Sunday Independent. He even posted the court documents on his blog.

By the time this article was written a large number of people have read and left comments on his blog. Bloggers have also started blogging about the issue.

The event has now also become a talking point in the fastest growing social network in the world Twitter. It has been picked up by the John Robbie Show on Radio 702, Johannesburg’s talk radio station where a lot of debate ensued and it now appears that the Department of Trade and Industries (DTI) is getting involved.

It’s a different situation but it reminds me of the Kryptonite Lock PR fiasco which has become a case study in PR textbooks and frequently quoted on the Internet. Briefly the story is that someone claimed that you could open a Kryptonite lock with the refill for a bic pen. This was denied by the company but very soon afterwards video demonstrating how easy it was to do so,  was circulating the Internet. The action of the company in trying to whitewash the truth was exposed with a considerable negative impact on their brand.

This is the power of social media and the concept of user generated content.

Honesty is key, PR spin and deliberate falsehood on the part of the blogger or the company will be exposed by the crowd. If however there is truth in the report then that truth is likely to be collaborated by others as it was in the Kryptonite case.

In this case Donn Edwards blog post has been collaborated or shared with many thousands of people, clearly the public, many victims of this same tactic sympathise with him, associating the story with the QVC brand. Many are up in arms against the bully tactics that appear to be being used.

Paradoxically not because of Donn’s blog but because of the actions of QVC themselves, QVC are bringing their company, its policies and tactics into the spotlight. The QVC brand is under examination by thousands. Maybe they just never calculated the effect of taking on a blogger in an always on always connected world.

The lesson for business is that the power has shifted away from the company, the brand owner and the traditional authority. Its now in the hands of the customer, strong arm tactics won’t work. I am afraid that the lid has been removed and there is no replacing it.

What will work is delivering value and dealing with customers with Trust, Transparency and Talking. How many companies and PR practitioners out there get this?

UPDATE: Its amazing how this story is gathering momentum, there is now a facebook group in support as well as a wiki which is listing the progress.

Posted on December 4, 2008 at 9:43 am by Walter Pike · Permalink
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
  • http://phr0g.wordpress.com Amod Munga

    As you rightly say “power has shifted away from the company, the brand owner and the traditional authority.” What amazes me is that it seems businesses are just blind to this fact. And it seems that PR companies are just sitting around hoping that this shift will blow over, like some fad.

    There’s a line from Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture that runs something like “A good apology has three parts: 1. “I’m sorry”; 2. “It was my fault” and 3. “How do I make it right?” The last part tells about your sincerity.”

    This should be on the walls of every PR office of every company that wants to remain in business in the future. It’s just going to get worse for those brands and companies that choose to ignore it.

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  • http://fromtheold.com fromtheold

    QVC obviously dont know the power of the internet. They have not even tried proving him wrong, they just proceed to their draconian tactics which in today’s world as you said where customers have the power is not a great move.

  • http://www.imod.co.za Chris M

    It’s great to see this doing the rounds in the online space, the more exposure the better. Us bloggers are powerful when we stand together, it’s quite incredible!

  • http://outthink.co.za Darren

    Very true what you say – “because of the actions of QVC themselves, QVC are bringing their company, its policies and tactics into the spotlight”.

    They clearly didn’t respond in the best way and would have been much better of by apologising or making up for it in some other way that would have generated positive publicity.

    Perhaps they would have been better off not doing anything at all than they currently are.

    Either way, they certainly face an uphill battle now to establish any form of brand credibility, particularly as the battle is not just online anymore.

  • http://www.face-painting-fun.com Andrew

    Hi Walter

    QVC has to have the most pathetic marketing team. Any company that uses this kind of un-sustainable marketing technique to peddle it’s crap, has to be un-thinkably stupid. Then they take stupid to the next level by attacking a blogger who has the power to rally together(all the people who have already been scammed but didn’t have the voice or time to do something about it) like me.

    Then they top it of by sending a lawyers letter to John Robbie at 702, who has the full backing of prime media and it’s lawyers (who now must be peed off with them and just looking for a way to give Donn lots of media support)

    Plus now instead of having one comment on a blog, they now have a Tsunami of bad press, (in blogs, radio, facebook, print press and social networking). These guys and their lawyers will go down in history as the goons who approached a problem in the 21st century with a stupid industrial age approach, which backfired with the stealth and strength that only networking in the information age can do. They have shot themselves in the foot so badly they will end up crippled for life. Even if they were lucky enough to win the case, (in the minds of the public) they have already lost, all respect and their brand is in tatters. If they loose the case then they will also have the honour of loosing to a “small guy” with no lawyer and be the laughing stock of the nation and even the world (via the net)

    The media will love this and I see them backing the small guy so I think QVC is doomed. If QVC think they are taking on Donn they are mistaken. They are taking on a force that they cannot see and that they have already shown that they don’t understand.

    Lets all get bloging, and social network this thing hard that these scum bags get such a severe butt whipping that they shut down for good. Wouldn’t be cool if lots of young lawyers (looking to make a name for themselves) sued these guys on behalf of the thousands of people who have already been scammed. The lawyers bill alone would shut these guys for good.

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  • Charles

    I fully agree about non-internet savvy people not realising just how quickly the internet is starting to change the whole dynamic of how we live and work on a daily basis.

    Take a simple example of just how many people are doing their Xmas shopping on-line this year over last year over the previous few years. Hey I might even order my next timeshare on the internet next time – no false pretences, dodgy presentations, no nothing! :-)

    I concur with you 100% – the power is definitely shifting into the Consumers hands.

  • http://www.meetmeonline.co.za Anton

    I’ve been lured in by these people once – saying I have one something I just need to pitch, AFTER ASKING THEM IF IT IS A TIMESHARE PRESENTATION and was told NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT, well, I pitched, sat through a whole 30 minutes of a TIMESHARE PRESENTATION and was ordered to meet with a salesperson trying to get me to fork out R48000 – payable in payments over ten months.

    Catch is I had to sit through the salesmans pitch to find out if I had actually one something.

    After the sales pitch, I was asked to sign there and then to get 30% discount or pay the full amount later. Well, I opted for the pay later option and took the application form, gave him some random cellphone number, with the intent not to fill the application, just so I can see what I’ve won.

    He then sent me off to a room in the back to pick a key from a box and see if I could start a contraption that was home made and had a keyslot. Nothing lit up on the contraption and I was sent on my merry way… Feeling like I’ve been raped.

  • http://www.meetmeonline.co.za Anton

    Okay, I did mean WON and not ONE

  • Frank

    I hope this leads to a class action case. I have not read the facebook support page yet, but it is time for the people to get together and oust shady practices

  • Wizzard

    This is one form of business that does not receive any of my money, simply because they have to resort to deceit to market their services.

    If they had any common sense or self decency, they would drop the legal action against the blogger, apologize and compensate him financially !

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