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There has been a lot of discussion here on MNB in recent days about social media, and specifically how Procter & Gamble was facing off with a flare up of criticism of its new Dry Max diapers, which some parents were saying on Facebook and other social media sites were giving their kids rashes.

Advertising Age has a terrific piece detailing how P&G dealt with the controversy. Some excerpts:

“The reality is that P&G, while trying to play it cool publicly, has been focused fairly intently on the burgeoning blowup since late last year. ‘We've been having daily 7 a.m. conference calls among all the functions every morning, including weekends, about this since we got the first inkling,’ Jodi Allen, VP-North American baby care told Ad Age between one of two TV interviews she did May 7 with TV stations from Indianapolis and Columbus.

“Any critics who think P&G isn't listening to the consumer complaints might be surprised to see how intently it is. Four or so employees are regularly stationed in the brand's listening post ... monitoring and categorizing new Facebook posts and other social-media chatter. Ms. Allen, who used to read through verbatims from the brand's call center weekly, said she now does so daily.”

“Whereas the company's most recent communications on the matter acknowledged parents' concerns while stressing the product's safety, the company's new tact was to take a tougher tone. The new statement referred to social-media complaints of diaper rashes from Dry Max as ‘completely false rumors’ from ‘a small group of parents,’ some of whom ‘have specifically sought to promote the myth that our product causes 'chemical burns.'"

“Balancing the risk that the tougher tone will further anger critics on Facebook is the fact that, as Mr. McCleary (Bryan McCleary, external relations director for North American Baby Care at P&G) said, nothing the company has done so far has helped much there. The company heeded advice to engage critics, he said, which didn't help -- at least not within Facebook -- although a company comment on a Consumerist message section did seem to improve the tone of commentary there.”

“At any given time, 250,000 U.S. babies have diaper rash, Ms. Allen said. But P&G has gotten only two reports for every million among the 2 billion Dry Max diapers it's sold so far. While it's not dispatching teams to every home that reports a rash, P&G is doing extensive follow-up calls when it gets complaints and inviting some parents to visit a pediatrician on the company's dime to explore the problems.”
KC's View:
It is worth reading the whole story. Click here .

My goal in this whole social media discussion has been simply to make the point that the people using its various venues to communicate ideas and positions cannot and should not be ignored. It doesn’t mean these folks are always right...or wrong. But it is a force with which businesses must reckon, and must take seriously. See our next story...