Perception Is Reality, Unfortunately
October 27, 2008
In “Yellow Pages ‘Paper Termites’ Are Winning“, Michael Taylor from [praized subtype="small" pid="66afa9c1b5e4cd2f613f200ec61d955d" type="badge" dynamic="true"] covers a speech Ken Clark gave at the [praized subtype="small" pid="9648614a31d6cb42c082429e62d735b092" type="badge" dynamic="true"] mid-year convention. Ken gave ”a close-up view of how negative PR in print and online is eroding the perception of the Yellow Pages industry.”
Clark, formerly VP Business Development at the [praized subtype="small" pid="85bbe9714ba1f95167e8691d35364b0a8c" type="badge" dynamic="true"] and current editor at YP Talk, is always on the frontline to defend the value of Yellow Pages products, especially as it relates to the print version.
He issued a challenge to directory publishers by asking them to:
- Rally their employees by supporting companies that support Yellow Pages and help to put a local face to the brand by showing the good the company does in the community and for the environment.
- Fight fire with fire by dealing quickly with bad PR and implementing a fact checking group to help set the record straight within their communities.
- Use the advertiser and consumer base as a means for getting out the facts with e-newsletters and Web site content, and highlight how people and companies are benefiting from the product.
- Use the product itself to make the point on bag messages about the environment and value of Yellow Pages, in directory content and even in green-friendly sections within the book.
Clark also proposed some tactics including:
- Offering a third-party opt-out clearinghouse to get under the opt-out movement.
- Offering a win-win proposition to print detractors by allowing the White Pages product to be all online so the print product could be eliminated.
- Doing a better job of showing the eco-friendliness of the product in relation to other forms of advertising such as direct mail.
What it means: one of the things I learned early on in my career is that “perception is reality”. Once people start thinking “Yellow Pages are dead” (BTW, they’re not and stop quoting Bill Gates!), they believe it’s true. I get weekly calls from financial analysts and fund managers asking me questions about the industry and they almost have trouble believing me when I tell them I’m convinced the print Yellow Pages will still be present in 5 years (it will, I’m ready to bet on it!). I know the directory publishing industry is doing a lot of things behind the scenes to fight the bad image that’s spreading in various blogs and financial media but it hasn’t properly joined the conversation in my humble opinion.
One of my proposed answers: each directory publisher should start blogging and address the various issues raised by old and new media. Join the conversation on an equal footing, be proactive and react quickly when a new issue arises. You’d be surprised to see the positive reaction of individual bloggers and social media users when so-called ”mega-corporations” reach out to them to discuss their concerns.
Let me end by quoting two of the theses from the Cluetrain Manifesto which seem to apply here. “Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.” Yup. “Companies that don’t realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity. “ Yup again. Go! Join the conversation!