When it comes to blogging, I find myself on both sides of the coin. Here at SiteLogic, we heavily advocate blogging for business as a great customer service/link/traffic resource. We also know how valuable it can be to have an influential blogger talk about your company or product.

On the flip side, I am also a hobby blogger with a decent following and increasing influence in my niche.

Even if it’s positive, don’t talk about us
On my hobby blog, I frequently write about my experiences as a volunteer with a local non-profit organization. I believe wholeheartedly in what we do and the benefits of our service, and my goal in sharing my stories is to spread the word. I want people to know this service is out there for their family members or as a volunteer outlet. And I’ve had great responses from my readers.

Until the organization discovered my site and asked me to stop talking about them.

While they appreciated that I said good things about them, they were worried that they could be hurt. And they were especially concerned that, heaven forbid, I had used their organization’s name. Somehow, all that great stuff I said was going to come back and bite them.

I’ll certainly respect their wishes, but I’m disappointed that their views of the internet, blogs, and online marketing are so misinformed. Even if someone is giving you negative press, it’s a bad idea to ask them to stop. It only feeds the fire. But why get in the way of someone who talks glowingly about you?

The single PR spokesperson is out
I studied public relations in college, and one of the points the professors drilled into our heads was that an organization needs ONE spokesperson. That ONE spokesperson knows the company and its core message, and is adept at handling media and other people invested in the organization. The idea was to avoid conflicting messages that would reflect badly.

And years ago, it worked. But now, people no longer trust ONE representative advocating a unified, and perceived inauthentic, company marketing spiel.

Hail the unintended spokesperson
With the advent of the internet, everyone with a connection now has a voice. If someone loves—or hates –your product or service, they can talk about it and have lots of people listen. When they feel strongly enough to write about it, especially positively, they are staking their reputation on you. When their reviews prove trustworthy, other people start to listen.

Your customers are reading reviews and blogs and forums and making their decision to buy based on what other customers say. They aren’t making decisions based on your corporate about page or how great you say your customer service is. They are listening to online “friends,” many of whom they’ve never met but have come to trust. Sometimes these influencers are customers, sometimes they’re employees, sometimes they are just brand evangelists. They are men and women of all ages, backgrounds, careers, education, and interests. And they have a lot more to do with how you are perceived than you do.

Embrace those who want to talk about you
Countless organizations have embraced their “unintended spokespeople.” And plenty haven’t, doing themselves and their most loyal customers a great disservice.

If you find people blogging about how great you are, find ways to encourage them.

  • Send them samples of new products, give them a free membership, offer whatever service you can that will show your appreciation (and give them reason to talk about you even more).
  • Ask their opinions on your customer service, marketing campaign, whatever you think might interest them and their readers.
  • Give them exclusive information, interviews, or breaking stories.
  • If nothing else, at least say thank you!

These are just a few ideas of ways to appreciate your unintended spokespeople and to encourage them to keep talking. Keep in mind, though, that your focus should always be providing value to them and their readers. The positive efforts you make will spread like wildfire online and will help your bottom line more than any on or offline marketing campaign. Poor handling will spread even faster.

While the old adage “any kind of press is good press,” doesn’t necessarily ring true with the internet, good internet press is the best kind of marketing you can get. And even better, it doesn’t cost you a thing beyond being willing to give up a little control.