Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
September 20, 2009 4:26 PM

Getting Called Out

It's easy to sit behind a keyboard and call out both individuals and brands. There's an argument for it and an argument against. So, is it worth doing? 

Let's preface my personal point of view with two thoughts:

  1. If you do call out both individuals and brands, you have every right to do so. It is your own Blog, Facebook page or Twitter feed. The opinions of others are simply that (and they are not rules).
  2. Calling out individuals and brands is an important (maybe even integral) part of our society. If we didn't do this, how could we ever right the wrongs for the betterment of society and civilization? The trick is in doing it in a fair and balanced way. Meaning, unbiased while describing the facts (or evidence) to back up a claim, and not just a personal attack.

Here are my thoughts on calling out brands and individuals in my online spaces:

  • I don't ever call anyone out - not individuals and not brands in a negative way. I used to (many years ago), but I stopped.
  • Naming anyone usually doesn't add that much more value to the story/conversation. Meaning, the Blog post or Podcast segment usually works just as well in terms of gathering thoughts and insights without calling anyone out.
  • I know by not calling anyone out, it probably makes this Blog just a little bit more boring than the rest. I'm willing to sacrifice the digital rubber-necking to elevate the conversation to the level of "the issue at hand" over the names of those involved. Besides, anyone smart enough/willing to dig a little bit can figure out who it is about.
  • Some people call individuals or brands out for personal retribution (to have their issue resolved). I believe those people are using our attention (their communities) for personal gain and that's not why I follow anyone.
  • I don't do it because you never know in life who you might wind up working with/for. I've heard many people say, "I wouldn't want to work with/for that company anyway!" Fair enough, but people switch jobs, etc... Imagine dissing one company and an individual from that company then moves to head up a company that is your biggest client. You never know if your contract might come up for review when that person realizes who you are.
  • You never know when you'll need a favour/help and who that person/brand is connected to. Remember, not everyone feels the way you do about life. Even if you're not trying to be confrontational or disparaging, the person/brand you are calling out might take it that way. In a world where we're all connected, it's hard to know how far/deep your criticism might run.

But, here's the biggest reason for not calling out individuals and brands...

I believe it keeps people and businesses who are on the fence about this digital space from not engaging. More often than not, they see this kind of action as very "high school". If we want these digital channels to be powerful and have merit, it is my belief that we have to rise the level of content above the bickering, name calling, troll-inducing content and finger-pointing.

Overall, I don't name names anymore. Your mileage may vary. It's your call. It's your reputation.

How do you feel about brands/individuals being called out online?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Tyler Hurst
    Mitch Joel

    I'm for it. Why shouldn't we all be held to a higher standard? Why not be transparent? The more we ignore problems in hopes we never upset anyone, the lower quality of work/products we get.

    However, it's vital that we don't simply point out issues, rather identify problems AND offer solutions. It might be tough love, but it's meant to IMPROVE, not tear down.

    We can't and shouldn't all be nice to each other. Just like good friends make us aware of flaws in hopes we improve, we can do so here. This is an opportunity to band together, throw some criticism around and make each other better.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ray
    Mitch Joel

    I think one has the right to, as you would in any situation where you feel a wrong needs to be addressed. However, if you do, I agree that you should stick to the issues and avoid personal attacks or unfounded allegations.

    Impulsive rants and revengeful assaults can come back to bite you in the ass.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mish
    Mitch Joel

    I agree with Tyler. 'Calling out' a brand on unethical and/or wrong practices not only helps that brand (hey, they may not know they are doing anything wrong), but it will also help others who were considering the same practice. If the brand did something wrong unknowingly and is able to get feedback online, they may have a chance to save their brand and turn a disaster into something positive.

    In terms of 'never knowing who you may work for or have as a client,' I think if you can offer valuable tips and solutions, as Tyler pointed out, the brand should welcome that feedback/knowledge and see you more as someone who wants to help and who should be on or working with their team. Not someone who they should disregard.

    I am against any personal attacks. Online or off.

    Reply
  • Posted by Tyler Hurst
    Mitch Joel

    I agree with Mish re personal attacks. Criticize ideas, not people. Name calling is a waste of time

    Reply
  • Posted by Art
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch you know I love ya but I'm with Tyler on this one. I think bloggers like yourself who are very well respected have a bit more responsiblity than the average blogger to call out the wrong doers. There are a lot of Kayne bloggers out there and we need people like yourself to state the unbiased facts don't we? If every well respected blogger took the same stance we'd find ourselves in a sea of Kaynes - anger spitful idiots. 

    Be a web soldier Mitch "We need good men and women on our team"

    No one agrees with mud slingers or wants them - but people with the courage to speak truths about wrong doers we do need.  

    Now put that uniform back on and march! :-) 

    Reply
  • Posted by Bryan Person
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch: I think you published a rant in a post in a few weeks ago about a company, but you didn't name names. Very smart.

    I'm growing weary of the rash of bloggers and folks on Twitter calling out brands and using their publishing platforms as a bully pulpit. Taking it to brands--just because they can. Yes, on the one hand it can help keep brands on their toes on the customer-service front. But as you rightly point out, it can also intimidate companies into not participating in social conversations at all, lest they be bashed by someone who's had a bad experience.

    I think we need a happy medium here. Not sure what that is just yet; still thinking it through.

    Reply
  • Posted by Laural
    Mitch Joel

    I think it depends on who you are. I get criticized for being too positive on my personal blog, but the one time I was furious with a company, I wrote a letter to no avail then put it on my blog and it was resolved in a day. And I'm a small small blogger with few readers.
    Sometimes it has its place. I was respectful.
    However, as we launch our corporate stuff online - next week - we've already agreed that it will be a positive focus. I think I may lose my job if I were to start calling people out using my company name. It goes without saying.
    Having said that - I followed the whole Dooce/Maytag saga a couple of weeks ago. I was fully on her side. I read both sides, but ultimately that's who she is, and I loved the drama.
    I think it all depends on who you are.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Like in everything else, there are exceptions but, in my opinion, you should not name names. It is a question of privacy and respect.

    Usually, you only wish to present a situation to explain something with this particular brand, company, etc... Knowing the names is only a detail that is not important to the situation you want to show.

    Reply
  • Personally, I say no to calling out by name. I'd rather be smart than be right. Hell, I'd rather be *kind* than be right. Not because I'm some kind of pollyanna, but because I understand that for people to hear you, they have to be primed to listen.

    When we (or our companies) get called out, our first reaction is to defend. When we defend, our every thought is focused on how to counter, how to protect, how to repel. That's not a frame of mind from which you can typically engage thoughtfully and move forward.

    It's a personal choice, of course, and there will be plenty on either side who'll say you should do it their way. But I'm a fan of dialogue, not judgment.

    Reply
  • Posted by Darrin Dickey
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch,

    I understand your reasoning, but I'm for naming names... just in a respectful way. Here are a couple of reasons why:
    1. Naming names is an extra channel for drawing that brand's attention to something they're doing wrong. I prefer writing them directly, but you'd be amazed how many brands make that simple line of communication nearly impossible (no contact info, failure to respond to contact, buggy contact forms).
    This happened to me a couple of years ago. I got a large fry from a major fast food restaurant (I won't name names in deference to you) and I got a box of cold fries, and it was only filled about 1/3 of the way. I wanted to let their corporate office know since the local management didn't care. But the corporate website only had one method of contact - a form - and it didn't work. My solution, a Twitpic of the offending order of fries and a quick open letter on Twitter.
    2. Naming names can help others learn from the situation. I often read about companies doing something, good or bad, and I go search for the specific activity (an ad for example) so I can see it for myself and learn what went right or wrong. The specificity lends itself to the learning experience, IMHO.

    OK, I've used up all of my words for the day. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mhairi
    Mitch Joel

    What goes around comes around and this is particularly true online. If you are negative towards others, people will be more likely to return the favor. Before posting your should always take time to consider how it will be perceived by your intended audience. If its not reflective of your personal brand or image then perhaps you should defer.

    Reply
  • I agree that avoiding personal attacks is essential. IMHO, whether to call a company or brand out depends upon whether the issue is a one-time mistake or minor inconvenience or their normal way of doing business. It can be useful to publicize intentional misdeeds when they are continual and obviously intentional.

    For example, I once called out - by name - a black-hat SEO boiler room company because they were so publicly vocal about their professed innocence while so blatantly guilty of really bad behaviors that were negatively affecting innocent businesses that did not know enough to avoid them. They had dozens of complaints at the BBB under multiple names, addresses and phone numbers. They were also the only company I've ever seen Google publicly admit had clients banned for their misdeeds.

    I also blogged about the horrendous so-called "high-speed" Internet access sold by HughesNet and other satellite companies because their business practices are just plain fraud and the public needs to know to avoid them.

    While I will not attack individuals or call attention to one-time mistakes I would not hesitate to call out Corporations and brands that insist on deceiving the public and providing horrendous service. It is about time individuals were able to bring pressure to bear on these companies.

    We have actually had this power but few have bothered to excercize it: vote with your decisions and money! Stop buying from those who mistreat you and support your local and small online businesses.

    Reply
  • Posted by Tim Rice
    Mitch Joel

    I think it depends on the context of the point you are trying to make. I wrote a blog post on branding where I mentioned the name of a well-known company because it helped make the point I was trying to make. I certainly don't think there is a place for pointless name calling or excessive, tasteless bashing. Those things usually happen when someone is trying to elevate themselves by tearing others down.

    Reply
  • Posted by Jerome Paradis
    Mitch Joel

    I believe think it's a matter of personal brand or editorial choice.

    For some, it's better to call out names negatively and keep a positive approach. They get clients because they have that kind of aura.

    For others, calling out names work. They get business because their clients know they will be told how it is without any detour.

    I think we need both.

    Reply
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