Memo to clients:
You are scaring me with your increasing use of the word “viral”. You like the way it sounds. I do too, but you can't have your cake and eat it too.
You realize that viral means people are talking about you/your company/product/issue and passing on the information. But, you’re not totally comfortable letting people just talk in fear of what can be said.
Just like high yield investments, the bigger the risk (open dialogue), the bigger the potential reward (discussion on your topic and all the peer-to-peer credibility that comes with it!). Perhaps the social media world needs a term akin to a “sophisticated investor” that refers to personal and professional brands that can withstand a few online punches.
My perspective is that companies should start with baby steps: a blogger campaign, integrating videos, integrating social networks, etc. These can be combined with more traditional media relations and marketing. You’ll be surprised how quickly you gain confidence both in the public’s ability to generate meaningful discussion and their ability to stand up for your brand when its credibly is being threatened.