Gregg Hilferding :)


A Lesson In Reputation Management Damage Control

Clearly, the end of this past week was much busier in one corner of the internet than many realized. Michael Arrington at TechCrunch reported on a Jotspot/Google merger blog post by "Kevin" disappearing under suspect circumstances. Thanks to search engine caching, he republished the original text of the blog which was basically an indictment of how little attention Google gave to Jotspot's partners.

I won't add to the discourse about either Kevin's blog or the tin-foil hat conspiracy mob behavior. The most fascinating thing about this story is how effectively the players are fixing the problem. Any time negative news about a company is released and then suppressed, it ignites an intense need in people to know what happened. This story could have been a nightmare for Jotspot and Google, but it is going a very different direction.

It's a little hard to follow with all the random Kevin/Michael/Jotspot/Google bashing and conspiracy theories intermixed, so I've put together a timeline of the key events in the conversation that followed the initial post. Timestamps are linked to the comment anchor, so you can read the actual comments in context.

Anti-Jotspot/Google Post Deletion Comment Timeline

  • Nov 30 5:49 PM: Kevin is identified as Kevin Hague of Knowesys.
  • Dec 1 12:16 AM: Joe Kraus, co-founder and former CEO of Jotspot responds:
    "Let me start out at the personal level. Simply put, it sucks to hear partners or customers say bad things about you. And, it’s not because I expect everyone to say nice things. It’s because I take very personally the fact that people, like Kevin, who invested in us early, feel this way."
    "we’ve joined a company (google) that has a policy of not announcing anything about future product direction. ... I know it can be frustrating and I know this comes as a turnaround from the very-open-about-future-plans nature that JotSpot’s partners and customers were used to."
    "I want to assure folks that a) we are continuing to offer the JotSpot service to customers that had signed up before we were acquired and b) we will continue to do so until the time that we can (and will) migrate users to a new service."
    "Last but not least, I can assure you that nodoby on our end asked Kevin to remove his post."
  • Dec 1 8:51 AM: Kevin responds, clarifying that neither Jotspot or Google requested he remove the post. He doesn't backpeddle on his position though (which is good):
    "I can imagine the synergies Google can provide and can’t wait to see what’s in store for the Jot platform and I’m sorry you are unable give more answers about this future. It’s a real bummer for us."
  • Dec 1 9:26 AM: Kevin responds to an anonymous poster who reminds him he should "re-read your posts before you publish." Kevin's response? "Anon, you're right."
  • Dec 1 10:52 AM: Kathleen Romano, co-founder with Kevin at Knowesys, explains the circumstances by which Kevin chose to delete the original post:
    "Kevin posted his personal opinions; I mentioned I didn’t fully agree with him and wanted it clear that these were his views and not mine; he mistook my comment as a request to remove the post. That was not my intention. He has every right to voice his opinion and should’ve left the post up."
  • Dec 1 3:55 PM: Bob Haugen, with Rising Technologies (another Jotspot partner) makes it clear that he considers the controversy overblown:
    "We expected Jot to be purchased by somebody, and are happy that it is Google. ... We wish Google would tell us more, too, but we are not surprised that they aren’t."

I can think of plenty of ways this could have been handled badly. Could it have been handled any better?

P.S. Thanks to Andy Beal for pointing out this article in his weekly internet news roundup.

Published by Gregg Hilferding on December 2nd, 2006 at 2:08 pm. Filed under Signal,WebmasterNo Comments