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Kodak 2.0 vs the Wall Street Journal

February 9, 2009

(Full disclosure: Kodak is a client of our agency).

Social media can be used to get the story straight. Just ask Kodak. Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an article that had false information in it. The article, which appeared in the print version of the WSJ was called: “Kodak Fails to Calm Skeptical Investors”

“Even as Eastman Kodak Co. tried to reassure investors it has the cash and products needed to remain viable, the photography icon offered more evidence that its business is deteriorating

You have to be a subscriber to read the rest, but the the article goes on to to describe how Kodak “Now Kodak says it can’t afford to keep such businesses as Kodak Gallery and its high-end digital press business, NexPress.”

And then, the firestorm started. People don’t like to hear that a company is divesting some of its assets. But thanks to social media, the firestorm didn’t last very long. It starts with Twitter:

“Check out this Forbes article for clarification of what was really said at the Kodak Investor Meeting: http://tinyurl.com/b6kg3s”

A blog post on the Print CEO blog called “Kodak is Not Divesting its NexPress Business“, squashing the rumor uses the Twitter response as the evidence that the WSJ is wrong.

“Kodak responded on Twitter to the WSJ report by directing people to read a story at Forbes.com which included a comment from Kodak CEO Antonio Perez on a potential divestment, “Given this environment we are not going to be able to invest in the whole portfolio, We are not thinking of divesting any of those businesses,” he added. “We have to find a way to continue to be in all those businesses without all the risk.”

Later in the Print CEO post, Jeffrey Hayzlett comments directly about the situation and says this:

“He reiterated Kodak Chairman and CEO Antonio Perez commitment to Kodak’s electrophotographic line up, “Antonio Perez described our color and black white electrophotographic portfolio as one of Kodak’s businesses that is being transformed–businesses that “require additional investment in order to reach their full potential.” He said Kodak sees a better return by “continuing in those businesses.” In fact, Antonio was asked directly about Kodak’s intentions with its KODAK NEXPRESS and DIGIMASTER system businesses, and he said, “…we’re not trying to divest those businesses.””

Then, a response from the Chairman and CEO Antonio Perez is placed on KodakTube, Kodak’s YouTube channel.

Here’s another comment by Cary Sherburne on the Print CEO blog post that began to turn things around:

“Kodak’s response to this “crisis” was very interesting to me for a number of reasons, not the least of which is their ability to rapidly leverage social media for maximum impact. Kodak and Jeff H are to be commended for their leadership in the use of new media, not only to quell the current firestorm, but in general. I don’t see many of the other suppliers to our industry leveraging social media as effectively. The events of the last two days demonstrate how important this can be, and having the process in place to move quickly and take advantage of the various media seems like it should be part of crisis planning for any public company these days, let alone the potential marketing benefits. Remember how we all laughed when the first Kodak video “leaked” out on YouTube? In the end, Jeff H had the last laugh.”

The false Wall Street Journal article now comes with a correction on the site.

The takeaway from this story

2009 will be the year of ROI. Brand managers and agencies will sit around talking about the ROI of social media. The specific ROI of a Twitter feed, or a YouTube channel or a Facebook page. When thinking about ROI, it’s worth looking at moments like this where Kodak uses blogs, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook (the YouTube video was co-posted on Facebook) to correct the record.

And this is also important: they didn’t just start the KodakIDigPrint last week to deal with this crisis, it’s been up and running with over 100 updates, and 500 followers. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but the Kodak message got out on Twitter. Look at this search for “Kodak WSJ” on Twitter. That amount of chatter comes close to the definition of viral.

So what’s the learning for brands? If they take the time to set up social media sites like YouTube, Twitter, they are more ready to fan the flames of a firestorm. There’s no guarantee that it will work. But when you see a company like Kodak kill it in Web 2.0, then you wonder what other big brands are waiting for. At least I do.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Pearl Man permalink
    February 19, 2009 10:20 am

    I like your POV. However, the yellow guys’ awkward experience with “NonSociety” on their CES blog post shows what happens when you’ve cut so many jobs that no one has time to do due diligence on a would-be internet partner. I’m thinking about using that fumble as a case study in a PR lecture.

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