According to the New York Times, Target (who are a US retailer) have an official policy not to reply to bloggers. Shaping Youth, who discuss marketing’s influence on youth, were complaining about a rather unpleasant ad run by Target – and were given the response that:
“Unfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with nontraditional media outlets … This practice is in place to allow us to focus on publications that reach our core guest”
Oh dear. This incident has caused some waves across the blogosphere as blogger after blogger picked this up. And now here I am commenting on it – from across the Atlantic. Bad publicity certainly goes far!
This is a big mistake on Target’s part. They may have a policy in place that says they don’t place stories with bloggers so they can focus on other publications – unwise as this might be – but to ignore them completely, and not even to reply to the question?
It’s as though bloggers aren’t also consumers, with homes, families and friends. Bad enough to ignore a ‘non-blogging’ customer, who would only tell their immediate neighbourhood about their bad experience with Target. But to ignore a potential customer who you know has a platform to communicate with hundreds or thousands of other customers? And a network of other bloggers, all potential customers with a correspondingly wider platform?
What should Target have done?
First, I think they should be monitoring what is being said about them. As I’ve said before, there are many services out there to help with this.
Second, I think they could consider interacting with a few key bloggers – as they presumably do with other core guests – to find out their views. I’m not suggesting that they pay bloggers to promote Target, as that doesn’t go down well, but it is probably worth being friendly, and hoping to manage people’s perception of Target. Isn’t that what PR is about?
Third, perhaps they could even start a blog themselves. Lots of companies are doing it these days … and Target could start gently, with a few new recruits blogging about their first year in the company. They do have a great set of videos of people talking about what it is like to work there, so why not expand this a little?
What should Target do to recover from this bad publicity? Apparently they have no plans to remove the offending ad, though they are reviewing their policy about interacting with bloggers …
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