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Would You Hire a Consultant that Regularly Bashes Brands?

We’ve all seen the posts online. The social media consultant (or consultancy or vendor) that always seems to be taking a brand to task for having an error online.

The question I think many of us face as brand marketers (as well as those of us who are consultants like me) is would we hire a person/ organization who regularly critiques brands?

Personally, when I hire consultants on behalf of my clients either directly or indirectly, I tend to see such approaches as vacuous. General brand bashing reflects poorly on the criticizer. Here are a few reasons why:

1) The brand bashers are building a reputation on seeming smarter than others.

2) Negative energy is used to create a need for their service, as opposed to a strong reputation of client successes and general thought leadership pieces. I prefer consultants that have built good brands, and focus on helping other brands succeed.

3) If the brand bashers were well vested in online brand management (beyond their own), they would understand how difficult such attacks are, both in the moment and long term via search.

Speaking from Experience

I’ve had to clean up my fair share of social media crises for brands over the past eight years. To be fair, I have also written a couple of these posts, though I stopped with rare exception in the past four years. So I’ve sat on both sides of the aisle.

A marketer/consultancy that routinely bashes brands online hasn’t had the hard experiences of cleaning up these messes. Generally, when you eat enough “mean tweets” you’re much less likely to spew them out. You realize that companies are not brands, rather they are comprised of people. Further, the online community managers rarely had anything to do with the original issue.

In reality, such attacks tend to be uncivil, creating conflict management and crisis communications issues.

I’m not sure I want to build the reputation of my consultancy as the one that shreds up major brands online. In fact, I had a friend in a Fortune 500 company who said in confidence that while she admired such consultants’ point of views, bringing them inside would be an act of reputation suicide.

My friend did note the value of well grounded brand criticisms. The ones that are strictly critiques are fair game, but in the case of voices that repeatedly bash brands, you have to look at their motive.

Putting Others Down to Look Good

Why would a consultancy regularly shred brands online? To make themselves look like experts, of course. In doing say, they often exaggerate the severity of the matter in that “oh so bloggy” way.

It reminds me a lot of a story I read in the old Business 2.0 magazine. It was a side bar from the cover story on The CEO’s Secret Handbook.

One of the anecdotes was to watch how a person treats the waitstaff at a restaurant. If they dress down the waiter/waitress, beware. Your business relationship may be a rocky one. The person slights others to make themselves seem superior.

If a consultant can’t look good as a result of their own works, should I really hire them? In the end, I always answer no.

Would you hire a consultant who regularly brand bashes?

This post is a series of blogs Geoff is publishing this week to support the Civilination Academy for Online Conflict Management. You can read Geoff’s take on the cause via his Punish Geoff Fundraiser initiative. The views expressed in this post are Geoff Livingston’s and not those of Vocus.

Image: akeg (Creative Commons)

About Geoff Livingston

Geoff is president and founder of Tenacity5 Media, a digital marketing agency that provides content marketing and social media services. A former journalist, Geoff continues to write, and has authored five books. Follow him @geoffliving.

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