frustrated businesswoman

How to Avoid Hurting Someone with Your Blog

“I knew that blog post was about me, and so did our coworkers. That was embarrassing. And what makes me really mad is that the way he relayed our conversation was NOT how it went.”*

Uh oh.

Many business owners blog to strengthen the platform of their small businesses.  Some of the best posts use real-life stories to convey truths, and/or teach steps to take to make improvements in a particular area of life. Both approaches, or a mix of the two, are great.  However, there are some guidelines that can be helpful to make your posts even more effective–and lessen the risk of hurting or embarrassing the “someone” your post is based upon.

Use stories carefully.

A story or anecdote can often draw a reader in . . . just be careful if you are basing it on personal experience.  For example, perhaps you want to write about the coworker who never answers their email, to give tips about how to be more responsive. While a true story is a great illustration, consider changing details such as names, times, places, etc. to make the story more generic. You can still get your point across without the subject of the story getting hurt or angered because of knowing you are talking about them.  

This gets tricky if you want to share exactly how you handled a situation, which may involve relaying a conversation you had. If this is the case, consider creating a much more fictional lead- in scenario; otherwise your version of how the conversation went may come across as dishonest to those who were actually there.  

Aim for “evergreen.”

There’s a good chance that the articles you write will stay on your website for a long time. If it’s possible to hide the date on the post, do so. Avoid language like, “yesterday” or “two weeks ago” in favor of phrases like “I remember when” and “some time ago.”

Write about your topics in a general enough way to stay relevant over time. By doing this you’ll avoid the possibility of looking out-of-touch, dated or insensitive to those who may know details of what you are writing about. Most readers don’t really need all the specific details of a situation to get your point.

Let it simmer for a while.

When you write about a situation, let the post sit for a period of time–sometimes the longer the better–before publishing it. This will further insulate the post from being a direct connection to any one person. In addition, you’ll almost always want to edit a post, and if it has simmered for awhile, you will probably have a better editing brain when you pick it back up.

Ask someone you trust to read it.

It can be helpful to have an objective friend–even one who has knowledge about the situation or your relationships with your friends or colleagues–review your blog post and give honest feedback about whether the details will be easily identifiable to the reader who may have prompted your post idea. This friend can give suggestions for further editing, or even advise if you should table the post altogether.

Add a standard disclaimer.

If you regularly include anecdotes based on truth in your blog, it may be wise to include a disclaimer at the end, and if necessary an asterisk at the beginning of the story.  You could say something like:

*My illustrations as presented should be considered fiction unless otherwise noted. While they may have elements based on personal experience or observations, my practice is to change specifics to make the anecdotes relevant to a wider audience.

Blogging can be a great way to share your story, and bless others. But you also have a responsibility to steward this platform well and not inflict harm or embarrassment on those with whom you interact. I hope these guidelines will give you something to think about as you prepare engaging, meaningful posts that will benefit your entire audience, without causing some of them to either wonder if it’s about them, or be embarrassed because they know it is.

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