I saw this morning that Target has responded to a recent request from a blogger about an advertisement complaint by saying: "Unfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with nontraditional media outlets."
The ad complaint aside, this response from Target was both interesting and surprising from an organization that seems to be on the forefront of cultural awareness and at least quite conscious of what people think about them. Anyone remember when they dropped "Christmas" for the more politically correct "holiday?"
The fact of the matter is that bloggers could be Target's best friends. Target does what it does well and could get extended mileage out of that by harnessing the power of bloggers. These ladies are a perfect example of that. They love Target.
What Target is likely thinking is that they don't have the personnel to respond to numerous blog posts and inquiries each day. I contend that Target can't afford not to engage bloggers. Target says they only respond to traditional media, but traditional media is increasingly following bloggers and becoming bloggers themselves. This entire story was picked up by The New York Times for crying out loud. Target talked to them of course...so it's a case in point. Bloggers can (and do) generate mainstream news.
I expect Target will take some heat from the blogosphere on this move. Kind of ironic they may find themselves in the cross hairs of bloggers given their logo. Target should do a couple things here:
1. Start a Blog ASAP - If Target starts a blog now they'll have the forum for a public response in the same medium as the criticism. Likewise they'll be prepared to address future blog requests on their own blog. This particular story would have been easily addressed on Target's blog if they had one and they wouldn't have had to concede if they disagreed with the ad complaint. The issue isn't about agreeing with critics, it's about engaging them at all. One blog and a part-time blogger could solve a lot of their problems and also make them better prepared to respond in the future. And that's just the reactive help a blog brings. There's a vast opportunity for Target to be proactive and positive with a blog, but that's a whole other blog post.
The rule of thumb is that when you're silent or avoid questions people will assume the worst. When you address an issue head-on and quickly you don't give it enough time to get a full surge of momentum. A well timed quick response can squelch an issue altogether. At the very least a quick response shows a willingness to address an issue publicly.
3. Ask for Help - If Target doesn't understand how to get a blog started or how to respond to blogs, they should find someone to help. From a technical side, any blogger they find will be useful to them regardless of what their own blog is about. Someone with news or public relations experience is a bonus. This is just another reason why public relations people have a better mindset for new media marketing. It's all converging both in medium and strategy.
[HT to Chris Abraham for this story]