Merion Friends Meeting News Feed

Honey vs. Vinegar

We all know about speaking truth to power by protesting injustices. We write letters, make phone calls, march in protests, participate in boycotts.

But when was the last time you wrote a letter complimenting a company for doing the right thing?  Maybe you’ve heard of a company contributing to a charity you support, maybe you’ve noticed it supports public transportation with its advertising, maybe you notice it’s sponsoring valuable programming on public television, maybe it created a sports tournament for teens or donated laptops to a school, etc.

Marketing can provide value  to the community instead of just cluttering the landscape.  While sometimes it’s easy to be cynical and feel these companies are just trying to repair their reputations because everything else they do is evil, plenty of them are businesses you would be happy to include in your own investment portfolio.

When you write a letter of complaint, it gets processed by some low-level functionary at the company. But does it have any effect on corporate decision making?  The executives in the boardroom may assume there will always be someone who isn’t happy. They may figure you’d be unlikely to patronize their product anyway. And in the case of advertising you disapprove of, like unsightly billboards, you’ve just proved their advertising got noticed. You may have made it more likely that obnoxious advertising will be continued.

A letter of compliment, on the other hand, gets much more attention. It gets forwarded to superiors, posted on bulletin boards, reproduced in company newsletters.  The person responsible gets positive attention from coworkers and superiors.

When you send a letter of compliment, you have not only told a company their action increased their good will, you have demonstrated that their good corporate citizenship was an effective way of advertising their product.  You’ve make it more likely they will choose similar ways of promoting their company in the future.


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