New addition to FeaturesExec, The Complaining Cow is a different type of blog. Editor Helen Dewdney is standing up for YOUR consumer rights by becoming a complainer extraordinaire. Read on to find out more about her blog and why she brings cake to her local MP's surgeries….
Tell us about your blog, how did you get started? Why did you choose your subject?
I am The Complaining Cow. I have a unique and innovative site! I give free advice regarding consumer rights and have a good presence on social media doing the same. My site is a bit different to others out there in that it provides details of specific complaints and how I dealt with them – how they could have been dealt with better and, in some cases, how they were dealt with well. So forward-thinking businesses would look up my blog and see how not to 'do customer service'. Individuals and businesses gain.
How do you source content for your blog?
My experiences! Simply reliving the customer service I receive and putting an entertaining spin on it. Occasionally, I experience some good customer service and that gets mentioned too but it is mostly about poor customer service. Highlighting it, how it should be improved, and how others can benefit from my experience. The tips are from my own experience of what works and has worked for years in gaining redress from companies. Keeping up-to-date with changes in consumer law. I always give my opinions on anything and everything; always have done. Now I have an outlet for that, but all posts are themed as achieving change for the better.
Do you have a favourite post or one that best sums up your blog?
The 'Twitter Etiquette' post is nothing to do with consumer law but it is still complaining and seems to still be a very popular post. It speaks common sense and makes people laugh. Other popular posts have included the posts regarding meeting Iain Duncan Smith in a couple of surgeries, taking him cake and confusing him (with recordings of the experiences!), and taking Tesco to court and winning. There are quite a few Tesco posts which people find amusing! 'The 20 Top Tips' for complaining is something people have found very useful, as well as posts regarding why you should complain, such as 'Warning: How Not Complaining Drives up Fat Cat Profits!' and not just accept poor service.
Do you write reviews? How many people read your reviews?
My reviews are rather different to the norm! The company hasn’t given me a product or service to review, so I decide what service I will review, and there’s no approval that has to be given! The company didn’t have a choice. Different posts get different amount of views. The Tesco court case write up got over a 1000 views in one day. Not bad for a hobby.
How did you build a following for your blog?
I started following people on Twitter and engaging in conversation with them. I created a FaceBook page as well. Providing free advice in tweets, responding to people’s requests for advice on consumer issues. Appearing on BBC Breakfast a couple of times as a consumer blogger/campaigner and Radio 5 as a consumer expert certainly gained followers. Paul Lewis also got some for me when he tweeted a link to a piece on the small claims court costs fees rise that I talked about on BBC Breakfast (which I then expanded upon on YouTube). Many people have now started to direct other people to me to answer queries and to follow on Twitter. Certain companies appear again and again and again in those tweets to me! I also looked up certain company’s timelines regarding complaints on Twitter and helped people who were complaining to companies.
Are you PR friendly? Do you accept contributions and content for your blog?
I’m only not friendly with people who annoy me and give me bad service!! Which, to be fair, is quite a lot of people! I am PR friendly in that a PR company may want to involve me in something in a different way than they would with other bloggers who would review a product or service. I’m open to any discussions, invites, working in partnership, etc. For example, I was invited to AO.com and I wrote up this visit. It was positive but if I hadn’t found what I had and I had negative things to say I would have said them! I speak as I find all the time and my blog is no exception! So, with that premise, I am very PR friendly.
In order to remain impartial and keep the site’s integrity, it would not be appropriate for a company to write a guest post about their own product or service but that isn’t to say it can’t appear on the blog. For the same reason, I have (sadly!) turned down advertising on the site. Individual's own stories are more suited; I am happy to allow links if appropriate. However, I do have guest posts from people who run effective complaining campaigns and achieve change and I write guest posts on blogs and other sites.
How best do you like to be approached by PRs?
Email is probably the quickest and easiest.
What’s in store for your blogging career in 2014?
To do more and to take it a little more seriously! Started as a hobby when friends I had advised, and who saw my regular FaceBook posts saying this, that, or the other, started telling me I should start a blog. I did, and it grew a bit! Started to add tips and promote it on Twitter. It began to be seen by media people who were just Googling 'complaining', etc. Very few people fight for the consumer and those who do tend to be from organisations and are the usual suspects – I will be pushing the difference in what I do. No standard template letters, for example, and specific incidents. And fighting for the consumer.
People frequently ask me for consumer advice on asserting their legal rights. It is this for which the BBC has contacted me, so I'd like to pursue this area. I liked the free hair and make-up being done the first time I went so more of that has got to be a good thing!
I have strong opinions and would ideally like platforms where I could argue with anybody, not least someone like Katie Hopkins (I have been told many times that she and me debating would make great telly) but for the moment should probably concentrate in the one area of consumer matters.
I shall also be developing the YouTube channel to include tips, rants and other things, too.
You can find Helen complaining @ComplainingCow.