Posted on MediaPost's Online Publishing Insider
Frank Abagnale Jr. was an airline pilot, a lawyer, a Doctor, a Lutheran and a self-made millionaire all before the age of 19 – or so he would have you think. If you’ve see the movie “Catch Me if You Can” you’re familiar with the true story of this infamous con man played by Leonardo DiCaprio. By the time his nemesis, FBI agent Carl Hanratty, finally catches up to Abagnale, he has conned businessmen, young women, bank tellers and medical professionals from coast to coast with fake names, bad checks made-up degrees. His uncanny ability to adapt to different environments and pass himself off as an expert in a variety of professions was astounding and extremely lucrative, at least until he got caught.
While the extent of his deception seems somewhat inconceivable, it is a story that is still being played out every single day. No, I’m not referring to Frank Caliendo’s impersonation of every celebrity from John Madden to George W Bush. I’m talking about well-meaning companies that have spent years building their brand and their reputation, choosing to engage in authentic online interaction through a 3rd-party. Marketing agencies and social media professionals are assuming the online identities of their clients. Every day in most every industry, companies are turning over the keys to their online reputation and customer relationships to agencies and consultants who are then tasked with becoming the online voice for their organization. How authentic can those online relationships really be, however, if the interaction is delivered once a week in the form of a spreadsheet showing the number of comments, twitter mentions and video views?
The reasons and rational for companies delegating their online voices range from lack of resources to fear to just plain incompetency. Some reasons are more valid than others, but if your company is outsourcing its online customer relationships you should ask yourself if someone outside of your organization has the same passion for your product or service, the same understanding of your value proposition, the same knowledge of your company’s culture.
If you have a physical store, and a customer walked through the door, would you want to talk to them yourself or hire an outside consultant to speak with the customer and then relay the contents of that conversation to you? The value of that one-to-one connection you make with a customer in the physical world is not really all that different on the online world. While agencies and consultants have the expertise needed to get you up to speed with your online communication strategy, the true measure of success comes when the keys to the car are handed back to you.
Who represents your brand online? Is it the Frank Abagnale Jr. agency or have you stepped up to the plate and taken responsibility for your online customer relationships?