Just read Ragan’s post about Southwest’s engagement via social media. They clearly get social media, how it’s about listening. I love seeing stuff like this.
I found their desire to name their PR command center “The Listening Post” particularly telling. Compare it, if you will, with Wal-Mart’s choice of “War Room”. One implies collaborative, engagement, respectful of it’s customers; while the other immediately screams adversarial. Seems clear which will be the best at mollifying the energy of critics.
This attitude works best to build ambassadors for your brand. These fans will be infinitely better at defusing potential crisis then even the best PR pros.
Your fans are a key asset. Invest in them.