September 9, 2013

Werner Braun: CRI benefits from online tracking system VOCUS

— In the world of business, you often hear it said that “if you’re not listening, it’s easy to get broadsided.”

It’s certainly easier, and more convenient, to choose not to listen. Perhaps that’s because we’re often afraid of what we might hear: we might pick up on customer dissatisfaction, be confronted with consumer complaints, or learn about our competition’s competitive edge.

But if we choose to bury our heads in the sand, we’re likely to lose whatever footing we have in the ever-changing marketplace and even lose the opportunity to gain ground in the future. It just makes no sense to play the part of the frightened ostrich.

CRI has chosen to listen to what the world is saying about carpet in real time through a cutting-edge “cloud-based” program that monitors the news media, social media, visual media, blogs and other forms of today’s “chatter.”

We hear it all: the good, the bad and the ugly.

The service is called VOCUS, and it’s a marketing software company which provides us with a daily report of who’s talking about carpet and what the discussion trends are via those news outlets, in all types of social media, and even in blogs.

This is a really cool tool.

Of course we love to hear anecdotal reports of people who say that carpet just feels better to their feet than almost any other kind of flooring. That’s true, by the way, and it’s a comment that we frequently hear.

But we also hear via the reports certain urban myths being bantered about on Facebook, Twitter or individual blogs.

For example, one of the more recent “trends” in terms of carpet chatter is the misconception about the product’s poor “indoor air quality.”

About 80 percent of those talking about carpet on these various media outlets are voicing concerns about Volatile Organic Compound (VOCs) emissions and/or concerns about carpet’s role in the worsening of consumers’ asthma and allergy conditions.

As I’ve stressed in many previous columns, there’s no definitive science behind those fears and concerns. In fact, CRI research indicates carpet actually preserves indoor air quality by trapping dust particles, preventing them from being stirred up into the room air via foot traffic.

But it’s good for us to know about public concerns that are being circulated. Because that gives us a better chance to set the record straight.

Another way that VOCUS is helpful to us is via its enormous databases of journalists and reporters all over the country.

If we want to send out targeted information to media outlets in California, for example, which has among the nation’s strictest environmental policies, we can identify those journalists who deal specifically with environmental concerns, and we have a much better chance of getting our message out.

This targeted media approach is much more effective than the scattershot method that was, at one time, the only method of advocating for our product that was available to us: the method of sending out the traditional press release and hoping someone would pick it up.

VOCUS helps us identify issues that we need to respond to and lets us see who our friends are, so to speak. We can also see how people are using the information we send out by being able to see how they use that information and how they transmit it.

It also gives us very advanced analytics via charts that show us what people are talking about and where.

Unfortunately, there’s no question that there’s an awful lot of misconceptions out there about carpet. And we find these misconceptions distressing.

But VOCUS is a great product that helps us measure what people are saying about carpet and allows us to respond to those concerns. That way, we have a much better shot at providing the marketplace with the truth about our industry and our product.

Werner Braun is president of the Dalton-based Carpet and Rug Institute.