Business blogs are serious matters. They display your thoughts to the world; they show what you think about, and how you handle problems. And for those higher up in a company, they can be seen to reflect the company’s viewpoints – whether that’s intended or not.
I came across a blog entry today that exemplifies how business blogs need to be carefully written.
In it, the writer berates a software company and their distributor for poor service on a shareware software product. This is the way blogs are often used – to vent feelings about a bad product or poor service.
However, businesses need to very careful, and often benefit from avoiding public complaints entirely. Although this blog is an individual’s, his bio immediately states that he is president of a large company dealing in Christian publications. Reasonably, then, visitors could be expected to feel his opinions are the company’s as well (at the very least, some will see his comments as reflecting on his company, as I did).
But what really are the issues at hand? Some points to consider:
1. There may be liability issues in ‘aggressive’ blogging. By publicly maligning both the product and the distributor, as well as showing private communication in a public forum, he could be exposing his company to liability. At the very least, he shouldn’t be surprised if others take exception to his strong point of view – software publishers, the companies involved, and visitors (like myself).
2. As a corporate president, his tone is informal – too informal. With derogatory subheadings, and flippant comments, he is more incendiary than needed to get the point across. And as a representative of a company offering Christian software, his comments may be considered even more incendiary (like it or not, we often expect a higher standard from those actively professing a religious belief).
3. There is a fair degree of insensitivity. At one point, he posts a note from the supplier (not the actual producer of the software) as to why he won’t get a free copy for review. Since the distributor may not be authorized to do this, it’s odd he then considers this ‘amazing’. I would imagine his own company’s distributors would get in hot water if they gave away free copies of his product without permission.
And at another point, he complains that there should be no problem giving him a free copy, stating
‘I mean, the software doesn’t even have a cost associated with it. News flash: It’s a digital download.’
As a businessman, he is perfectly aware that all products have a cost attached, be it development costs, marketing costs, or just the cost of downloading. Again, these are comments found in many blogs – but for a president of ‘the ninth largest publishing company of any kind’ to complain that others aren’t giving things to him for free comes across quite poorly.
4. His company is reflected on. Although his blog may not be authorized by his business, mentioning his position in the bio does serve to legitimize it and connect the blog to his corporation. So then, when the president of the company proclaims
she ticked me off enough that I am spending my Thanksgiving morning writing a negative review of the product.
I take note – and I believe others do. Certainly, if I was in the market for the Bible based products that his company shows, seeing that the president doesn’t ‘turn the other cheek’, would give me pause.
However, an important point to remember is that these observations are coming from someone who is NOT in his target demographic. It may well be that the people who buy his books like his blog’s tone and attitude very much: in that case, he could actually be improving business, not hurting it.
But I suspect that’s not the case. And if you do too, you may be wondering how to avoid writing ‘on the edge’ in your blog. Here are my suggestions:
- Pause. They say never write an email in the heat of the moment. Ditto for blogs. These words are much more permanent than an email. Even if the writer changes the blog text, copies of the original could still float around for years, reflecting on his business.
- Keep calm and factual. There’s no doubt the program he reviewed has problems – serious problems. But how much better would they have been to relate to if he had stated the facts only? By straying into name calling, he loses a portion of the audience that could easily have been swayed by the facts alone.
- Show the Golden rule. This is a good rule for all companies, Christian or not – do as you’d like done to you. As business people, we’ve all had a bad day or two. How sad if that bad day gets shown all over the Internet for all to see, with little opportunity to redress it.
Quite obviously, there was a problem – and reporting on it was warranted. But if YOU were in this situation, what would you have wanted?
Personally, I prefer a complaining letter and a chance for communication – because the alternative is complaints behind my back. An upfront letter gives me a chance to win over an angry customer, rather than losing him or her, and anyone they potentially complain to.
So whether you agree or disagree with the original blog entry and this analysis, one thing is certain – strong feelings can be evoked with writing. When running a business, it always pays to make sure that the words generate emotions that benefit your company – not undermine it.