This is my personal blog. I don’t run my draft posts by Google’s PR or legal team, other than maybe 2-3 times when I thought a post might have legal implications. But I have learned a few hard-won lessons. So, when someone recently asked me for tips about talking to the public, I couldn’t resist. Whether you blog for the company officially or unofficially, here are my top three rules of thumb:
- Don’t make hard promises about the future. One of the beauties of web-based software and services is you get to decide when to push out changes. Don’t give up that freedom by promising a feature to the outside world by a certain deadline. Maybe later you’ll decide that a different feature is a bigger win. Or you may want to hold off for a week to polish down the last rough edges on a product.
- Don’t trash talk a competitor. Your product should be strong enough that you don’t have to diss a competing company. Back in 2002, an article in the Boston Herald showed up about another search engine. The article claimed that “The entire XXXXXXXXX Catalog is updated every 9 to 11 days.” I knew for a fact that wasn’t true and at first I wanted to rip that claim to shreds like a bulldog. But (with the advice of some wiser Googlers), I decided to take the high road instead of picking a fight. In fact, claims like that motivated Google to be fresher and faster. Now I believe Google has the freshest index of any of the major web search engines.
Sometimes other companies will throw dirt in your direction. In that case, the challenge is to correct any misperceptions without picking a fight. But first ask yourself: do you really need to respond at all? If not, then maybe it’s better not to get pulled into an argument where everyone involved loses a little credibility. So far I’ve written 10-15 draft posts (and who knows how many I’ve written in my head) where I was snarky about another search engine, and then not published the post. Each time when I look back after a few months, I’m glad that I didn’t post.
- Don’t post when you’re angry. This is probably the most important tip. If you have to write something, go ahead, but don’t press publish until you’ve slept on the situation or had a chance to calm down completely.
I’ve broken each of these rules, and regretted it almost every time. What tips would you suggest when blogging about your company?