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Own a Business? Don't be a Negative Nelly!

What watching a spat between a small business and a blogger taught me about PR.

I recently stumbled upon a bit of a feud that was happening with a local blogger and a new business, who I won't name (as to not add fuel to the fire!) but let's just say they are a first of their kind business for the Cleveland area. Now before the blogger-business feud, I had never heard of this blogger or this business. So in some ways they both benefited from exposure, but, spoiler alert, the exposure was definitely more positive for the blogger than the business. 

Here's the breakdown: The blogger in question visited a new business in town. Her plan was to try it out with some friends and then write about her experience. Sounds pretty standard right? Yes, it does. I'm thinking to myself, hm this is similar to the many posts I've written on local businesses. And as far as I could see, there was nothing offensive about what the blogger wrote. She even admitted that she would like to go back. I suppose the only border-line offensive remark was that she felt the price of the class was crazy. I believe insane was the exact word she used. I have to say, I agreed with her. The price of the class was insane, but I'm saying that with a graduate student salary in my bank account. It was more than I'd spend on a fitness class, but not so crazy that I wouldn't still want to try it. In fact, the blogger's description of the class itself inspired me to want to all trek out to the other side of town to try it out. 

And then ... things got weird.

The business in question found out about blog post and instead of being excited to have some free PR they accused the blogger of not just being cheap, but accused her of stealing the class. (Yes, they said she stole the class by using a promo code that they gave to their Twitter followers.) This sharp blogger luckily kept her receipt to show that this was not true. (She did use a promo code, but if the promo code wasn't valid, why did it work?) The business also started sending the blogger negative tweets, and at one point left a comment on her blog stating that if she didn't take down every posting about their business, they would file a police report. All of this because the blogger thought the price of the class was too high for the Cleveland area.

The blogger in turn got a wave of support from her readers. Many of the readers felt the same way I did: Well I wanted to visit this place until they started beating up the blogger. And let me tell you, not one reader sided with the business. Even if they thought the price for the class was fair, their treatment of the blogger and the situation was not. 

And so, here is the lesson from all of this. If you are small business, and especially if you are a new business, never get in a feud with a blogger who is stating an opinion. Even if you are greatly offended that the blogger felt the price of a class was too high, instead of going on the defensive, you could perhaps remind the blogger that you'll be offering the occasional special and/or discount code. This is much better than tweeting the blogger that you are sorry those on the other side of town think the class is too expensive. You not only passive-aggressively attack the blogger, but all the people who live on that side of the river! (Can we please put this whole eastside/westside battle to rest? We both have good things and bad things. Rich people and poor people. Just let it go!)

And while you might think someone living on the other side of town wasn't going to come to your business anyway, think about a restaurant like Melt. Before it had three locations, people came from all over the Cleveland area to support it. They waited hours for their grilled cheese, and while they may have felt the restaurant was small and the ovens made the service time slower than other restaurants, they went off to tell others to try it out and they went back again! (And again...)

If customers see you are mean and negative, they aren't going to visit. Not everyone who visits your business will love it. And there may be a number of legitimately insane criticisms that you'll come across, but please, never fight a negative with a negative. If you're going to respond, be gracious. Your response might mean more to potential customers than what the blogger wrote in the first place. 

Also, if the blogger is 95% positive, just go with it! So what if someone thinks you are overpriced or your service is a little slower than they would like? Just because one person said it, doesn't mean everyone will!

And while some bloggers are out there to write mean, negative reviews, most bloggers (including myself) only write about businesses they enjoyed. (Yes, I've gone to businesses in Lakewood with the intent of writing a blog post about my experience only to find I had nothing nice to say about it. My mother always said that if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all...) That being said, if you're being blogged about, it's probably a good thing. It's exposure. And it didn't cost you a red cent, unless of course you attack the blogger. Then it might just cost you some customers.  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Brandon Scullion June 21, 2012 at 08:58 PM
I see failure in the business owners future. So sad but their own fault.

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