Playboy and the Art of Listening

Earlier this month, in response to reading that Playboy magazine was holding a social-media-based campaign to find “Miss Social,” I published a tweet that read, “Playboy looking for the hottest women in Social Media. Because women haven’t mastered anything until Playboy photographs them doing it naked” (140 characters exactly!). The tweet was picked up and probably retweeted about 25 times — in the big picture of Twitter, hardly a phenomenon.
 
About a week later — the same day that Playboy announced that Krystal Harlow, a 19-year-old college student from North Carolina, won the “Miss Social” competition, blogger AV Flox wrote a post using my tweet as a catalyst that made it to the front page of BlogHer.com. Included in Flox’s post was also a comment from Paul Lee, Playboy‘s managing director of digital ventures. I was surprised to find my tweet highlighted in this story, but I was even more surprised when Paul Lee reached out to me directly — on Twitter, of course.
 
I decided to take Lee up on his offer, and, moving the conversation offline, we set up a time to talk on the phone.
 
Now, in reality, I’m probably never going to agree with the way Playboy portrays women, but I was impressed that Lee saw me talking about the Playboy brand, reached out to me directly, and followed through with a respectful, offline conversation.
 
Perhaps not every brand can justify hiring a “Chief Listener” like Kodak and Dell have — as you can read in this recent Ad Age story — but it’s worth having a conversation with your client about who can fulfill this role. Keep in mind that listening often necessitates acting; do you really want to leave this responsibility to an intern or the most junior person on the communications team? With a wide variety of paid and free tools available to monitor mentions of your brand and your competitors online, there is no excuse and little patience for a brand with its head in the sand. Before putting an ear to the ground, consider working with an interactive strategist to develop a protocol on how to respond to the chatter you will hear.
 
Although you’ll never win over every consumer — I won’t be stopping by the newsstand on my way home tonight to pick up a copy of Playboy — you can demonstrate that your brand truly cares about what detractors and enthusiasts alike have to say.

Nancy leads the Social Media Group at Ketchum’s New York office, where she counsels a wide variety of companies on how to engage with consumers online and become a part of the conversation. Working with brands like Kodak, Frito-Lay, ConAgra Foods, H&R Block and IKEA, she has developed strategic influencer programs, local events, Twitter and Facebook content sourcing, and event sponsorships. She often works with companies to develop their internal social media guidelines.