There is a certain segment of the business and marketing worlds that believe brands should never present anything negative. They believe that all online content should be positive. Then there is that segment that takes the opposite approach. They live for the negative, even if it is packaged to make it look neutral or positive. Is either approach wise?
Unfortunately, the question is impossible to answer. Why? Mainly because ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ mean different things to different people. Some people attach positive and negative connotations to individual words. Others are more focused on what they believe are positive and negative ideas.
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A Matter of Perspective
A few years ago, I wrote a piece discussing the plight of truck drivers who had to always keep an eye out for possible stowaways at border crossings. At the time, truckers were having big problems in France and at the U.S.-Mexico border. I wrote the piece from a factual standpoint, yet the client returned it saying the topic was negative and shouldn’t be discussed.
I wrote a new post as the client requested. However, I still knew that the client’s dissatisfaction was a matter of perspective. To me, the news is the news. Factual reporting is just that. Even though the piece tied in directly with the client’s business, their perspective was different.
Words Can Be Perceived as Negative
Staying away from topics that clients feel are negative isn’t terribly difficult. You just find out what they don’t like and stay away from it. Where it really gets confusing is when particular words are perceived as negative.
You have heard the old joke that says garbage collectors are now sanitation engineers? Today, things are even stranger. Entire classes of words are avoided so as not to cause offense. Take personal pronouns, for example. These days, you have to be careful about which ones you use.
Then there are those clients who insist on only using positive phrases. So instead of saying, “It’s not wise for your company to do this,” the client wants something like, “A better way to do things is this.” You make the same point but with different words.
Pushing the Envelope
Our collective fussiness over individual words and phrases can make life exceedingly difficult on content creators. But why stop there? Sometimes a writer feels it is very appropriate to push the envelope. Sometimes it’s appropriate to go right to the edge of acceptable to make a point or stir up the pot.
There are those brands that seem willing to allow an occasional push or two. There are other brands that wouldn’t dare think of doing so. Each brand gets to make its own decision based on what it thinks is best. For content creators, it is about creating whatever the client wants.
Results Are What Truly Matter
Webtek, a Salt Lake City, UT and Austin, TX company that specializes in digital marketing services, looks at the whole thing from a results point of view. Their perspective is this: as long as the client is happy and content gets results, the positive vs. negative debate is moot.
Brands utilize online content as a marketing tool. As with all forms of marketing, the goals are to build brand loyalty, connect with customers, and drive sales. Achieving those goals eliminates a lot of the fussiness about words and topics.
Should a brand’s content always be positive? There is no way to answer that question. People define positive and negative differently. The best that content creators can hope for is producing content that won’t get returned and that actually achieves the desired result.