This started as a conversation in the Steam thread which was sparked from today's Steam security risk/ETS2 dev issue (which almost assuredly Valve won't address). Thought would make a thread about it. Basically things for Valve haven't been going well (at least on the outside) for a while now, like Diretide, Steam Universe, storefront issues...yet Valve remain silent.
Not sure what's up with Valve this year. Not a lot of good news are coming out regarding them and their public perception also isn't at its best. Do they even care?
There are some really great and passionate people at Valve. But with their odd corporate structure, it's like everyone there forgot that things like public perception are important to your brand.
What they really need are people who can interact with the community directly, and be responsible for making statements - you know, PR. Every time an issue comes up, and Valve is silent on it, Valve loses a lot of goodwill and furthers user's perception that "Valve doesn't care."
Yes, I think a decent (or couple of, each for their games) Community Manager would do wonders for them. At least mitigate issues such as Diretide you know? I mean Valve interpreted that incident as "We didn't give them Diretide", when in reality it was mostly about Valve not communicating with their fans. And as you said, everytime something comes up like Heartbleed or Steam being down they stay silent.
RPS tried to grill them about their silence back at CES, but they just came up with excuses like "We don't have a PR dept!" , "We read our forums!".
At the same time, I think a proper PR structure would destroy a lot of what makes Valve unique.
Suddenly all of their community interactions, promotions, and public decisions would be spearheaded by PR. They would be just like every other company, with their "games you'll actually play" promotions, "we'll tell you if we ever announce Half-Life 3" announcements, and a distinct lack of both crowbars and Gabe Newell in Kickstarter videos.
No one said they should go full on with PR. The fact is Valve aren't good with communicating with their customers. Not even close. They think that working behind the scenes instead of saying anything whenever an issue comes up is the way to go. It isn't. It riles their fans up and gives wrong impressions.
Now this has been a thing for years. But the bigger their service/games become the less they should act like this. Like the storefront issue. They've been getting shit for it from gamers, press and devs, yet they don't address it. We know they have plans for it from outside sources and it's supposedly good, but how far is it and I'd like to hear it directly from Valve. Their silence isn't reassuring anyone.
I firmly believe that Enhanced Steam's popularity to-date has been the direct result of community involvement. I gather ideas from the community, I let people know what I'm working on (and why), and I like to think that I'm pretty responsive when people have questions or issues about the software.
Valve needs someone like that, that has the inside information on what's going on, to be able to communicate and disseminate that information to their customers. So when something like Heartbleed happens, that person can stand up and say "Hey guys, we're working on rolling out a fix for that as soon as possible." Or when Steam goes down they can make an announcement like "Just a heads up, we had a router crash in one of our upstream providers, and it should be back online in a couple of minutes."
Instead we get silence and have to assume the worse. With Heartbleed, DAYS went by where people were still asking "Is it safe to log into Steam yet?". If I recall correctly, Steam's servers were all updated within 8 or so hours of exploit being publicized. Having an announcement made in an official capacity after it was fixed would have ultimately resulted in an increase in customer trust, rather than the opposite.
Of course Valve have come up with excuses for their no PR approach before, like their corporate structure/culture; people preferring devs working on problems instead of talking about them; talking to customers would take away a dev from working on the issue, etc
This is such a no-brainer. People like to be reassured, they like to be acknowledged, they like confirmation. It's simple. I don't need huge PR text or stage shows. Simple, concise messaging would be enough. Valve always pride themselves on their community and communication with them, but it's so subpar. They should stop treating their customers as air, and should care about their rep.