It all started with this entry:
Since our company/service/network is getting links from everywhere nowadays, I wanted to quickly clear up some confusion regarding the name of what it is we’re doing.
The company is “9rules, Inc.” and the network is “The 9rules Network” or just “9rules.”
These capital R’s dropped everywhere are making our CEO cry in public, and believe me, that’s not pretty. Lowercase r’s are where it’s at. Uppercase is for suckers :-)
Mike and I thought people would get a kick out of it. We believed that the entry was innocent enough and that we put enough of our humor into it to get our point across without sounding too demanding. We were wrong. Shortly after the entry was posted Duncan Riley caught wind of it and wrote:
I’m sure this is an oversight from 9rules and not meant with any evil intent, but not being grateful for getting links, dictating the form, and then insulting people who use an uppercase “R” really isn’t the way to endear yourself to others. As I’ve written at the post: good will is fickle, insult those who help you by linking to you and the only people who are suckers are 9rules.
And as is the case with anything controversial on the Internet it spread. We could see where people would get the idea that the entry was harsh, but after we made some comments we figured it would be over and done with. Wrong.
Michael Arrington over at TechCrunch (people we respect and a blog that really is a must-read) wrote an entry titled Top Ten Things You Can Do To Get Blogged and at #10 was our branding entry under the rule “Don’t be a Jerk”. Ouch. With TechCrunch being TechCrunch the entry got linked by many people, one of them being the prolific Steve Rubel. So again we took action and commented and even sent TechCrunch an email hoping to lessen the fire.
Again we thought we were done, but we continued to see comments on other blogs about our linking policy and it started to turn into a meme/joke of sorts. Yesterday we decided to take some action on the subject and this is just one of the good reasons why a company would want a blog. Even though we still hope that people link to us as “9rules” we understand that it doesn’t matter how you are spelling the name, as long as you are linking it. Add this fact with a little bit of our dry humor and we came up with a new linking policy.
What was the effect of writing this entry 12 days after the original one caused all of that commotion? Duncan Riley, the man who started it all, wrote an entry on it with this to say:
Following a fair bit of controversy over a post asking that people link to the network use a lower case “r”, the 9rules network have published a new links policy that to the relief of many demonstrates that these guys aren’t as evil as the first post made out, but more importantly Paul Scrivens has a great sense of humor as well.
If that was the only thing to come out of this then we would have been happy, but to our surprise Michael Arrington, one of the writers for TechCrunch, commented with:
ok, that’s funny. even I’m able to “get it” now. :-)
Now some of the people who read the original’s message will have in their mind the fact that we messed up and it will be hard to change that. In a perfect world the original wouldn’t have happened the way it did, but we feel we came out a bit stronger because of it. Sure it won’t get linked up like the original did, but we were able to show our willingness to admit our mistakes and have a sense of humor about it.
Is that always the answer though? Admit your faults and tell a joke? Of course not. The answer is to probably not make the mistakes in the first place, but we know that is nearly impossible. How many times could Microsoft tell a joke after a virus shuts down 50% of the world’s computers (exaggeration, but you get the point)?
We were quick to comment on the sites where we saw people calling us out. We apologized for how they viewed the entry, but also made sure to justify why we wrote it. If all you do is apologize then not only does it show a weakness in your company’s decision making process, but people will come to expect that you have no problem with making mistakes because all you have to do is say you are sorry.
Don’t take your actions so seriously where you can’t see when you make a mistake, but don’t take your company so lightly where you think telling a joke will get you out of a foot-in-mouth moment. And by all means respond quickly.