Can you change the world? You bet. Here’s how

This morning we featured a story about Spirit Airlines, a company that’s generated more than its fair share of complaints in the past. Way more than its fair share, actually.

Some of you might wonder: “Why even bother?”

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You’re not going to like the answer — especially if you work for one of the bottom-dwelling airlines, cable TV companies or wireless providers featured on this advocacy site. We write about it and talk about it because it makes a difference.

I’m not going to take credit for the executive changes at Spirit or Wells Fargo. I can’t claim that our advocacy journalism did that. But we played a part.

You can, too.

Public pressure is irresistible. When enough people complain about your product or service, you can’t blame the “free market” for your failings. You can’t throw around fast-food metaphors (Mr. Baldanza, how do you like your burger?) and expect to stay in business.

And we — you and I — are in the public pressure business. The good kind.

Here’s the thing you might not realize, but I will share with you now. Companies care, and they take every post, every comment, every case personally. Not to mention any names, but I’ve heard from managers, VPs and CEOs when our stories publish. And then the comments start appearing. That’s when their bewilderment turns to hurt and anger.

I know that some of the commenters here work for the companies we often criticize. While they might not be here in any official capacity as operatives hoping to counteract the negative publicity generated by these cases, they nonetheless say more about the companies than any individual story could. When I see what our moderation team lovingly calls an “apologist” comment, it means the company cares enough to send someone our way to try to neutralize the bad press they’re getting.

Only, it doesn’t work.

The cases speak for themselves. The real people who experience bad service at the hands of Can’t-Care-Less Corporate America, usually conveyed in these customers’ own words, eloquently say more than any advocate or writer or blog. Their pain and suffering and the way in which cold-hearted company policies exacerbates the suffering, is devastating.

So today, as we ponder this Spirit case, I wanted to give you this message of hope.

Don’t lose hope.

Keep participating in this bold experiment in advocacy journalism. Other sites use their platforms to create personal brands or to wield more influence. I believe the term that gets thrown around is “thought leadership.”

But we just want to make the world better, one small case at a time. And we’ll use whatever means at our disposal to ensure the consumer landscape is just and fair for everyone — not just the one percenters, the card-carrying platinum elites or the shills.

Everyone.

Should journalists be advocates?

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