His response is a “how to” for CEOs looking to build relationships—rather than attempting to control communications—in today’s new-media world:
* Stand up for yourself. Seth didn’t hide behind a PR group or other surrogate. He signed and posted the response himself.
* Be direct, not defensive. The note doesn’t begin with combative “set-the-record-straight” rhetoric or pandering nonsense (“I read with great interest…”). So the tone is authentic and true.
* Use the medium. Seth posted a public comment on my blog, just like any other reader. It says, “I want to be part of the conversation” not “here’s a note from the principal.”
* Leave the “canned” goods on the shelf. People can sniff a canned response (think: Dear Valued Customer) a mile away. Seth’s note references three of my points directly—even quoting the same language. Nice.
* Recognize that small can be big. MentalShavings.com is a tiny forum. But my blog about Honest Tea has been “Googled” and e-mailed dozens of times. You never know when things can snowball.
If that all sounds like Communications 101, it is. But it tells me that Honest Tea really does strive to live up to the opening statement of its mission:
“We will never claim to be a perfect company, but we will address difficult issues and strive to be honest about our ability or inability to resolve them.”