Of course there had to be some negative feedback for allowing Mark to review the 2013 Ford Explorer. It basically revolved around the idea that somehow a brand was going to ruin Mark’s life and I think take his virginity. Before we nominate me (again) for the worst father of the year award, let’s get the facts straight.
Ford, through a public relations firm, gives me cars to review with no strings attached. Well there are some strings. I am pretty sure I am not allowed to enter them into a demolition derby or street race though Saskatoon. I get them for a week or two and then pass them on to another reviewer. If there is a string attached, I am often asked to arrange the transfer with the other reviewer which lately has been Jeff Jackson. I sometimes pick up the car from Chris Enns. We occasionally have lunch or coffee while trying to figure out how to keep the vehicles longer (it never works) Once in a while there are tears like when I gave back the Ford Escape.
Of course Ford wants favourable reviews. All companies do. No one wants to hear that the product is a piece of crap. If Ford gave me a vehicle that was a piece of garbage, I would say that. I have no problem with that. I wasn’t overly fond of the Lincoln I tested and I said it. I loved the Ford Escape more than anything I have ever driven, I wrote that too.
When Mark came to me and said, “I want to review the Ford Explorer.” I pointed out that he can’t drive but he wanted to anyway. We talked about what a review was and the need for him to be really honest, even if Ford didn’t like it. We talked about integrity. We also talked about being a jerk because it played well on the internet and how he probably shouldn’t be that guy.
Like anything he posts online, he has to write it out because his handwriting stinks and he is in grade seven. Handwriting matters. He then typed up the review in Libre Office. That was harder than handwriting it because children aren’t taught typing until grade nine. When it started typing the review, it was a 2008 Ford Explorer he was reviewing, it was a 2013 when he finished up. Then I finally finally edited it. Like any young writer he struggles with sarcasm and often can sound mean, especially when talking about his little brother. It’s why I often say, “don’t tweet that”. With a perverse pleasure, I watched him struggle with a couple of paragraphs that “didn’t sound right”. Welcome to my world.
We then went outside (with his camera) and took some photos. Oliver at that point had to get into the shot and with Mark’s permission, I took some photos of Oliver in the Explorer with him. We then put the post together with Windows Live Writer and uploaded the post. It took Mark a long time but he had a really clear idea of how he wanted the post to look. I was glad he took the time even if I think some of it was stalling to stay up later than his bed time.
Mark’s blog automatically posted the review to Twitter. Mark had mentioned that he planned to review the Explorer the day before and some of Ford’s social media people asked him to tweet them the review. One of the best parts of reviewing the Ford’s are their social media team and they were great to Mark. While the response from Ford to the review was great, what was good about the experience was that Mark learned a lot about research, writing, and the importance of integrity in your writing (it also helped to have Mike Duffy as a comparison during this time). He also learned through Ford’s social media team that big companies can have a human voice.
I am not really that interested in protecting Mark from this work than I am helping him navigate it. Sometimes what I do freak people out (it bothers some of our neighbours that Mark is allowed to walk the two blocks to Safeway to visit Wendy by himself and others are unnerved that he was allowed to walk down to Riversdale or downtown to see me after school). Now some others are unnerved that he wrote something for a (gasp) brand. He figured out how to navigate the westside. He is now figuring out how to talk about products. I think he will be okay.