Monday, August 24, 2009

You Have Now Entered... The Twilight Zone

By Dave Folkens

No, not the wonderful and innovative sci-fi/horror show from the late 1950’s that made Rod Serling famous, but rather that hazy realm of where marketing, sales, pr, and communications all meet. It may be on a new initiative or perhaps when a tactic crosses over existing department boundaries like an organization making the leap into social media. Or perhaps there is a celebrity that mentions your product in a positive manner and you need to identify how to capitalize on that momentum. Is that a marketing effort? PR/communications? Perhaps the sales team wants the lead?

How should organizations handle this zone? Much like the old show, you better be ready as often times strange things take place in the Twilight Zone. It’s a realm where a misstep with a response to a customer or prospect can result in lost opportunity and create internal clashes and finger pointing. These missteps can stress, and break, relationships that organizations depend on to succeed.

Do responses to these types of issues have to depend on a mandated relationship or can all these groups work together with slightly different skills to get the job done? I believe the answer will indeed vary from company to company, as it should, but the key in determining the right mix needs to be based on the skills to meet the challenges rather than seniority or title.

In an environment where brand reputations are on the line in real-time, organizations should spend some time while not in a critical situation to evaluate the talent they have available to understand where they are strong and where they are vulnerable. You may be better off having a great salesperson that listens to concerns very well work directly with a customer on a complaint instead of a customer relations manager that doesn’t see the problem in a particular case.

Seek out those with strong skills in understanding the simple question of “what’s in it for me” from the end user perspective. Focus on the right fit for each situation. It may not be as easy as it once was but your customers expect that personal responses be, well, personal.

Do customers really care who responds to them or do they care more about how you respond to them?

I’d love to hear more about how you handle the Twilight Zone and your thoughts.

Dave Folkens is the Director of Communications for Minnesota Aids Project. Follow him on Twitter @dfolkens or contact him by e-mail at

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