This is a guest post by Heather Baker
As PR consultants, we are always telling our clients to stick their necks out and be brave enough to state an opinion that might upset someone. But while an executive will often make wild claims about their industry in private, he or she will usually recoil when we suggest they share them on their blogs.
I guess they fear some sort of wild backlash, but the reality is that as long as you believe in what you’re saying and you’ve confirmed your facts (and are open to correction if anything changes), I would argue that you stand to gain more than you stand to lose by blogging where others fear to blog.
Last year, on two occasions, I put my money where my mouth was and spoke out against the practices of two organisations in my industry (both of which I respect and support in many ways). First in September, after almost a year of trying to resolve the issue directly with the organisation, I blogged about how the Public Relations Consultants Association offers little additional value to SME members (over individual members) while charging them a large premium. I was clear in my post that the organisation adds significant value to the industry, but I was firm and fair in my assessment of its failings when it comes to smaller members.
The consequence? For a few days, I was accused of all kinds of horrors by the organisation in a surprisingly poor display of media/blogger /stakeholder relations by an organisation that should be the media/blogger /stakeholder relations torch bearer. Yes, it was mildly unpleasant, but it didn’t cause me any major concern. And after the initial storm died down and my teacup was back to normal, I received a flurry of comments, emails and phone calls in support of the post and the position, the volume of which more than balanced out all that unpleasantness. And, the post was read by 415 people, who spent an average of six and a half minutes on the page – so it certainly achieved some reader engagement, and highlighted that the issue was of interest to the industry.
Later in the year I published a post about The Press Association’s paid-for newswire, which, despite hours spent researching the service, is, again in my opinion, nothing short of a rip-off. Despite a weak threat of legal action from a member of the organisation’s sales team, I went ahead and ran the post anyway. And the response was tremendous. The post received over 600 views in the week after it was published, with readers spending an average of five minutes on the page, and two UK national journalists lending their support on Twitter. The backlash? None so far. My blog still stands. My business still runs, and the post continues to attract readers, comments and social media shares. It seems to have answered a question that many in the industry have been wanting to ask.
Now, in both these instances, I could have chosen to write a simple, dull summary piece about the organisation in question and its services. However, I knew that would be of little interest to my readers and hardly worth the effort. At the same time, I genuinely believed that the industry was being misled and thought my readers had a right to know. There were negatives, but in both instances, these were outweighed by the positives.
One of the great things about the blogging revolution is that, unlike magazines and newspapers, many (but not all of course) blogs are not used primarily as revenue generators. Instead, for many organisations, the blog’s core purpose is to build online thought leadership. That means that as bloggers we can speak out about issues within our industries without having to worry that the organisations concerned will punish us by pulling their advertising. Of course there’s always the fear of ‘social’ punishment, like being excluded from events or badmouthed by the organisation in question. But if you believe in what you are writing, and aren’t just being controversial for the sake of it, then it’s totally the right thing to do. And if we, as bloggers, can’t speak out about our concerns or issues in our sectors, then we can’t complain when no one else does!
Have you ever taken the risk and spoken out on your blog? What were the consequences?
About the author: Heather Baker is managing director of TopLine Communications, a UK B2B PR agency.