I hear complaints from companies all the time about how angry bloggers say mean things, and they're not interested in entering online discussions because someone says something mean about them and it's uncomfortable. I tell those folks that you have to pay attention to everyone that talks about your issue or your brand, but in the big picture, the angry blogger is sometimes not much different than the village idiot. In some cases, people realize he's a one-trick pony and there's no need to engage there.
However, there are some rather uncomfortable yet incredibly important discussions happening online that deserve and demand attention from everyone. These discussions are being led by brilliant people with real challenges in their lives - and they've taken the courageous step of using blogs and other forms of social media to confront stigma and bias.
So if you're in social media, marketing, policy, or communications generally, you need to read, learn from, and embrace Real Mental. THIS is social media in action, and it's being driven by some very courageous people who are sharing their stories and their talents.
The communications tool isn't sophisticated - it's just a group blog - but it's perfect for the content. When you have content as strong as this, you shouldn't let it trip over technology. All the sexy new social media tools we love to swoon over wouldn't convey these stories as powerfully. Heck yeah, this is a Best Blog EVAH. I have nothing but respect for people with the guts to write like this.
The real question now is what companies and their flacks do with Real Mental - will we stay at arms length, or will we engage? Do companies who care about mental health have the guts to tell the writers of Real Mental that they're listening? Will they enter the discussions that everyone knows we have to enter, or will they let their discomfort with the subject matter or the fact that there's an occasional f-bomb here dictate their actions?
I suspect the payback will be huge for the company that transparently and respectfully engages first. In this case, engagement may just take the form of saying "we hear you and we support you." But it may be more than that - I think that's up to the writers of Real Mental.