Thursday, July 12, 2012

Go Negative with “positive controversy”!

In the report “Blog, Blogger, and the Firm: Can Negative Employee Posts Lead to Positive Outcomes?” researchers discovered that moderately negative posts make corporate blogs more credible and also increase readership, which in turn offers more exposure to positive posts.

In general, readers expect business blogs to be predictably positive and boring. These posts make their blogs more of a public relations and marketing tool than an open forum. But, add some constructive criticism and/or critical commentary to the mix and suddenly you have a recipe for some honest and open dialog about the company’s products and/or services.

For example, let’s say that your company markets automobile parts online, and an employee notices that shipments, because of an archaic, supply chain practice, are being delayed. Instead of choosing to handle the situation in-house you decide to run with a post about this issue-- and any additional commentary that is spurs -- all in the spirit of improving your customer service.

I think this situation is a good example of a “positive controversy” (constructive criticism). When a company permits moderate criticism of its policies, its products or its services, readership and public engagement go up. This makes a company’s blog more credible, and increases the chances that other postings will be read, shared, and commented upon.

However, the study also found that too many negative posts could “muddy the waters”, thereby reversing the positive reader reactions. We suggest keeping such “positive controversy” posts to around 15 percent.

The key here is diligence, perspective, balance -- and of course, editing. Obviously, you should weed-out the mean-spirited, non-constructive, or demeaning post. Also suggested in the study was to employ a policy of not restricting negative posts which is different than actively encouraging negative commentary.

The other advantage of “positive controversy” online, is the ability to spot potential problems perceived by employees and/or customers before they become major issues. By carefully encouraging constructive content on your company’s blog, you’ll earn trust, respect and most of all be building an authentic brand.

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