Jackie Huba of the Church of the Customer blog shares how stories spread, with the help of YouTube and audio. As you may have heard, an AOL customer tried to cancel his account and dealt with a CSR who pretty much wouldn’t fulfill his request. The customer, Vincent Ferrari, who is also a blogger, has been on a number of broadcast programs and clips of his interviews (as well as the conversation he recorded with the CSR) are available almost everywhere online.

Jackie Huba distills the process of how a story spreads down to five easy steps:

1. Bloggers spread a story that has a surprising development (i.e., a Comcast technician falls asleep on a customer’s couch, or nude photos of a high school art teacher are found online)

2. The story has plenty of concrete details. Audio, video or photographic evidence are ideal.

3. A tangible form of injustice has occurred (multiple missed appointments, getting fired)

4. As the story reaches a certain threshold of recognition in the blogosphere (a top 5 search term on Technorati), the traditional media react. (Ferrari was interviewed Wednesday by Matt Lauer on The Today Show.)

5. Within a day or two, the traditional network story gets posted to YouTube, and the word of mouth goes nuclear. The non-blogging audience hears the story for the first time, and the original bloggers post updates about the involvement of traditional media.

Most viewers/listeners/readers reminded us that AOL is notorious for forcing customer service agents to discourage cancellation from customers. (Side note: I wonder what they would say if your reason for cutting off service was something truly absurd, like that you’d just been incarcerated or you were going to spend the year rowing a boat around the world until your arms gave out.) Perhaps the PR team at AOL and other companies really need to consider the customer relations/service representative procedures and processes as a part of their own responsibilities. After all, you never know if your customer is a blogger or, for that matter, Katie Couric’s favorite sister.

Thanks to Jackie for this invaluable summary.