A populist guy named Jared may help sell Subway sandwiches, but putting one in charge of PR for AT&T has not been such a successful damage control strategy. Rather than sit back and listen while AT&T users and bloggers complain about their service, AT&T took to the Internet last week to defend itself against charges of spotty service.

The trouble is, it actually makes the company look worse. For starters, rather than apologizing, the company makes a whole lot of excuses. And when it comes down to it, Jared can't do anything to fix the problem.

Putting a face to the problems AT&T is facing seems like a good strategy. Despite raking in cash from its exlusive contract with Apple to distribute the iPhone in the U.S., AT&T has been struggling to keep up with the increased bandwidth requirements that have resulted from the incredibly high usage of smartphones. Thanks to the iPhone, the quality of AT&T's service has actually gone down.

The company created a video starring Seth, a self-described "blogger guy from AT&T," who addresses the problem in the video:

"Look, we see the discussions on the web, on blogs, on Twitter on Facebook, so we thought it would be a good idea to take what is being said head-on."

But instead of appeasing customers, the video has shifted the complaints about AT&T — to complaints about Jared and AT&T.

Rather than inspire sympathy, the videos mimic the style of Apple's iPhone ads with a white background, but fail to capture the same trust and encouragement about their product.

As AdAge points out: "AT&T would have done better trading in the overproduced video with its graphical overlays of diagrams and charts with some frank and earnest talk."

And the choice of Bloom to address the problems is odd. He's filmed a series of commercials for AT&T to tout positive things about the company. But he has absolutely no power over there to make changes when things go wrong.

Writes TechCrunch:

"We’ve actually been working with Bloom for a number of months as AT&T issues have continued to mount. He’s quite helpful in answering the questions that he’s allowed to answer, which we appreciate. The problem Bloom has is that he can only answer questions, he can’t actually solve AT&T’s problems."

Which is the real issue with the videos. They acknowledge problems that the company is having, but prove little other than the fact that one carrier cannot handle an exclusive distribution deal for the iPhone.

Jamie Carracher, a member of AT&T's Blogger Relations Team, tells AppleInsider: "The most important point is, we're listening to all customer feedback, and we’re acting on it."

While it's understandble that AT&T is having trouble keeping up with the high consumer demand — and data consumption — that the iPhone has caused, it's hard to inspire sympathy from customers that are paying for phone and data plans that AT&T customers pay for are expensive. And unreliable.

And here's the biggest problem. After listening to the video, there isn't really an option for viewers to improve their service issues. 

Social media consultant Jackie Huba tells AdAge:

"They could have an entire website listing all the things they're going to do about the network and update it continuously, so it's clear what's being done, when it's being done," she said.

Images: AT&T, Twitter

Meghan Keane

Published 10 September, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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Ben

MediaCurves.com just conducted a study on 601 mobile phone users viewing the recent YouTube video posted by AT&T which addresses common issues with the iPhone. Results showed that the majority (92%) reported that the video helped the phone carrier. The study also found that the majority (87%) of viewers reported the YouTube video was effective but that the video had no affect on favorability ratings for AT&T or the iPhone. More in-depth results can be seen at: http://www.mediacurves.com/Advertising/J7551-ATT/Index.cfm Thanks, Ben

almost 9 years ago

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