Last month my family went on a one week vacation to Walt Disney World. We had fabulous service at parks, restaurants, and our hotel, enjoyed countless rides and entertainment, and even found something exciting to do during two days of rain. On our final day, we waited patiently for the Magical Express to pick us up at our hotel and take us back to the airport for our flight home. What followed can only be summed up as one hour of misery. As I sat on that bus on the way to the airport, I mentally wrote a blog post about the experience. I noted the date, the time, the driver’s name (which I still remember…it was that bad) as well as every detail of what transpired.
But then I let it go.
I could have done what many in the blogosphere do and written all of the details of this terrible experience. As a writer I am fluent in the language of hyperbole, and the picture I could have painted for you of our trip to the airport would have been vivid, detailed, and memorable.
It would have been memorable.
When bloggers sit down to write a negative post lambasting a company, a former friend, the PR industry (their child’s school, the weather, an estranged relative…really, this could go on forever) they almost never weigh the impact that might have both on them and on the object of their wrath. They also almost never paint the whole picture – it is simply impossible to do so within the constraints of a blog post. For most the traffic such a post brings to their blog or the release they receive from venting are enough to make it worthwhile, but I believe that bloggers should take a moment before hitting “publish post” and reconsider publishing complaint blogging.
Let me clarify that I am not suggesting that bloggers should write only positive product reviews. Most of my reviews include a “this is not for you if…” caveat, and I believe that it is important to always be truthful when writing a review. Overly joyful review posts that sound more like infomercials are part of why bloggers are seen in a negative light, after all. However, if the toy you are reviewing is so loud that you need to cover the speaker with tape to diminish the sound, rather than flamboyantly declaring that Company A is out to damage the hearing of all children worldwide you can state the simple truth: like many children’s toys, you found the sound to be a bit much, and therefore you covered the speaker with tape. You let the company know of your displeasure, and your child continues to play with the very fun and otherwise safe toy. Truth in advertising is a multi-faceted concept, and just as you should disclose your relationship with companies and report your actual findings, you should also be evenhanded when writing about any negatives you find.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Reviews aside, why shouldn’t you write a complaint post? Negativity has a life of its own and will quickly get legs. It is simply impossible for me to even begin to write about all of the wonderful experiences my family has had at Walt Disney World. To properly show the weight that a negative post about Disney should have in comparison to my positive experiences, I would have to literally write thousands of posts. In the absence of those posts, a negative complaint fest would have stood out, an emotional tirade beaming far brighter than my less affecting posts about a good meal at Nine Dragons or a nice evening at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. While my bad experience was just one small blip on a radar screen otherwise filled with cherished, happy memories, a post about that bad experience would have stood out, a uniquely critical rant about a beloved company. When you choose to post the good, the bad, and the ugly, the ugly will always get more traffic and feedback.
Who Does This Affect?
– The Company – For a company like Walt Disney World who does not, by the way, even own the shuttle service with which I had problems, negative feedback cannot damage a long history of a proud and stellar reputation for customer service. In fact, as I’ve written before, customer service is one of the most magical aspects of a Disney World vacation for the parents who choose to spend their precious time and money in the World. But imagine that you are a company whose reputation is still forming, especially online. One scathing post – fair and balanced or not – will stand out as a conversation piece in the very market you are trying to reach.
– The Blogger – Lately nasty charges have been thrown around about bloggers blindly shilling for companies. While no one wants to appear to be a thoughtless mouthpiece, you also do not want to be known as a person who courts blog traffic on the backs of bad situations. Just as a company’s reputation can be made or broken by the hateful words on a blog, so can a bloggers’ reputation. If you hope to use your blog someday as a jumping off point for freelance or full time work, carefully consider what you post today and the impression that will make on future employers. Will others see your writing as honest and fair or one-sided?
– The Community – Open and honest discussion is an important part of any functional community. As bloggers it is important for us to find ways and opportunities to share our frustrations not only to feel as though we are not alone in our experiences, but also to move forward and create change. But at the same time, blogs and the comments that follow are a very public forum, visited by those outside of the blogging community. If you choose to rant in a post and draw your readers into your anger, that negative spotlight will shine on everyone around you. Think long and hard about if there’s any constructive with the criticism, and whether or not the picture you are painting is fair and accurate, or indulgent and divisive.
Your blog is the world’s window into who you are. What is yours saying about you?