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Companies controlling their own messages through social networking technologies Twitter, YouTube, blogs and Facebook are corporate weapons

When officials at Eastman Kodak Co. saw a crucial mistake in a Wall Street Journal article on the company's future plans, they knew they needed to do some major damage control.

An error in the leading business newspaper in the country could cause serious problems for the Rochester-based corporation and spread fear among its clients.

But, using the power of Twitter and blogs, Kodak moved its response swiftly through the deeply interconnected online community and blunted the impact of the article.

"The fact that we had a foundation in new media really made this possible," said Beth Hogan Scott, director of worldwide marketing communications for Kodak's Graphic Communications Group.

Kodak and its public-relations firm, Eric Mower & Associates, which has an office in Buffalo, used a response strategy that leveraged the power of social networking.

Before the Journal issued a correction, Twitter users and bloggers were commenting on and clarifying the damaging report. And a top Kodak official recorded a video reply for YouTube.

Twitter gives users the chance to send brief notes -- 140 characters or less -- on any possible topic to a circle of "followers."

The notes, known as "tweets," can be mundane personal observations, links to interesting articles or tech-related developments or even breaking news.

Comcast, Starbucks and JetBlue, among scores of other firms, are using Twitter.

"Twitter is a way to create a relationship with your customers and to communicate above the traditional media filter," said Christopher Smith, the BuffaloGeek blogger and a frequent Twitter user.

Kodak's NexPress division got onto Twitter in time for the giant Graph Expo trade show last October in Chicago. NexPress sells digital printing presses, mainly to commercial printers.

NexPress launched its Twitter page -- twitter.com/kodakidigprint, as in "I Dig Print" -- at the Eric Mower firm's suggestion in an effort to get more attention at the trade show.

The gambit wasn't extraordinarily successful, said Matt Hames, Eric Mower's social media strategist, but "the cool thing is they decided to keep it going."

The Twitter account came in handy on Feb. 5, when the Wall Street Journal reported on Kodak's annual investor meeting in New York City.

The article originally stated, incorrectly, that Kodak couldn't afford to keep its NexPress and Kodak Gallery divisions.

"For us, this was a serious miscommunication that needed to be corrected as quickly as possible," Scott said. "We never want our customers to think Kodak is not the best partner to grow its business."

Kodak officials did ask for a correction, but they didn't wait around for the Journal to act.

Working with Hames and colleague Peter Borrelli, Kodak used Twitter to send out notes steering people to the correct information about the investors' meeting.

For example, Twitter user "margiedana" early that day pointed out to her followers the Journal article and its incorrect conclusion about NexPress.

Hours later, "kodakidigprint" replied in a tweet directing "margiedana" and the rest of its followers to an accurate Reuters article on the meeting.

The company encouraged bloggers to correct the mistake.

"Did Kodak Say It Was Going to Divest NexPress? No!" Jim Hamilton wrote at the InfoTrends InfoBlog.

Kodak even recorded a statement from Chairman and CEO Antonio Perez, posted it on its YouTube channel and publicized the video on Facebook.

The Journal stated in its Feb. 6 correction that Kodak has no plans to sell the divisions and instead plans to "reposition them by finding partners to share their costs, licensing technology or other means."

Hames said the correction helps but it was equally or more important for Kodak to get its message out, quickly and on its terms.

"The Wall Street Journal is, what, 100 years old? Twitter is 2 1/2 ? I think this is going to happen more and more," he said. "You can be more proactive."

e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com

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