Adam Fisher
1st October 2018 - 5 mins read
S

ome will be genuine complaints from customers, others may be from rivals and then, of course, there are the dreaded trolls.

I’m no stranger to online criticism, having previously managed social media accounts for public sector organisations.

People have also, on occasion, taken exception to blogs I have written in my current role, including an ITN newsreader who really didn’t take too well to something I wrote for our sister company Media First.

The key is to accept that you will face negativity at some point and focus on how best to respond.

Here’s what I have learned from my own experiences and the different ways some brands deal with negative comments. 


Keep calm

This is advice I constantly have to remind myself about.

Whenever someone criticises something I have put out, and I don’t think it is justified, my first reaction is to quickly put together a stinging instant response.

But then I think back to a training course I went on years ago where we were told not to send work emails when we were angry.

And I think the same applies here, whether you are responding to a blog comment, a Twitter post or any other form of audience interaction.

The reality is that responding emotionally when your blood is still boiling will typically make the situation much worse. And you really don’t want to get involved in some form of ongoing argument in a public domain.

It sounds obvious, but it is important to compose your thoughts, consider the criticism, and let any heat die away from the situation before responding – even on social media where speed is of the essence.


Avoid the copy and paste approach

One of my hates on social media is when a brand receives some criticism and it responds by continually copying and pasting the same couple of generic lines over and over again.

It is something I see regularly. 

When Nectar was widely criticised on social media for announcing a partnership with the Daily Mail, it stuck rigidly to pre-agreed corporate lines, which it copied and pasted relentlessly.

Here it is: “Hi (insert name), we’re sorry to hear you’re not keen on the partnership. The primary factor in any new partnership is our current customer base. From our data and research, we know that there is a large crossover between our customers and Mail readers. Hopefully, you can take part in other offers which you find more appealing. Thank you for the feedback anyway.”

It looks cold and robotic and only really serves to make the customer more frustrated. It also suggests the brand actually isn’t all that bothered about complaints from customers.

While it may feel a little risky, social media teams should be given the freedom to move away from pre-approved corporate lines when an organisation is being criticised and add a human touch to responses.

If you are facing a real social media storm and don’t feel you have the time or resources to personalise responses, it would be better to stick to regular updates rather than trying to reply to everyone with the same corporate line.


Humour

You need to tread carefully here, but humour can be a great way of turning a negative comment into something positive.

Not only can it diffuse potential issues, but it can also show a fun, lighter side to your brand.

But it is not going to be appropriate in all situations and each one needs to be judged independently.

Virgin Trains found itself in the middle of a social media storm earlier this year when it responded to a passenger complaining about being called ‘honey’ by a train manager with a poorly judged joke.  While Thameslink found itself threatened with legal action after comparing its poor service to ‘Poundland cooking chocolate’.  

My advice would be to run any humorous responses past a colleague just to check that they are actually funny, right for the audience and also tasteful before they are published.


Sometimes a private reply can be better

You are not going to keep everyone happy, even if you follow all of the above advice.

Some people will continue to post negatively, but it is important that you don’t get drawn into an ongoing conversation with them.

The best approach is to ask them to send their contact details to you through a direct message or your email address so you can arrange for someone to give them a call and discuss the issues they are experiencing.

This is something which worked well for me in previous roles and at times resulted in a dissenting voice later going on to post something positive about the organisation.

Even if they persist with their criticism, other customers will be able to see the effort you have made to try to help them.


Don’t delete

It can be tempting to delete negative comments and criticism, particularly if you feel they are unfair.

But this needs to be avoided.

Not only does it show a lack of transparency and suggest the organisation may have something to hide, but it is also likely to encourage the critic to post more negative comments.


You don’t always have to say sorry

Another one of my regular frustrations with the way brands respond to negative comments is they always apologise, even when they have nothing to be sorry for.

Take train companies for example. Any commuter will tell you that these guys have a lot to apologise for. But look at their Twitter accounts and it is one apology after another.

The website Sorry for the Inconvenience shows that rail operators have already issued more than 200,000 apologies this year alone. While many of those are completely justified, some are for really minor issues like plug sockets not working.

The huge rate of apologies only adds to the reputational damage. The key for other companies is to be selective about when to say sorry.

Sometimes a better approach is to take control of the narrative and laugh about the issue, like Joe Dough’s Sandwich shop did in this brilliant example.




Finally

The final point is that a negative reaction doesn’t have to be seen as a bad thing.

I want the content I produce to cause a reaction and even a negative reaction can get other people talking.

It’s far better than talking to a completely passive audience.

 

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

 

Marketing

Gold rush – the secrets of writing a winning awards submission

Adam Fisher 6th July 2018 — 3 mins read
W

e use the word ‘daunting’ because the entry process can seem time-consuming with no guarantee of a return.

So how can you ensure your awards submissions stand out and capture the judges’ interest?

Here are eight tips to help you ensure your award entry is a success:

 

Captivate the judges

If the award is worth winning, the judges will probably have hundreds of entries to read through.

So your submission needs to stand-out. This means you need a strong opening to draw them in and encourage them to keep reading.

The key is to get to the really strong part of your entry early on and not leave it until the end of your submission.

Some journalistic principles also apply here to ensure interest and focus is maintained. Ensure sentences are no longer than 30 words and start each sentence as a new paragraph so that judges don’t face daunting passages of text.

Also, think about what makes something ‘newsworthy’ to a journalist and apply the same principle. For example, what makes your entry unusual?  Is it because what you have achieved is a first, or the biggest, or the smallest? This will help you find that all-important ‘wow’ factor.

 

Storytelling

People love stories. They want to read and hear stories.

And your awards submission will be much more memorable if it includes a story.

Like all good stories, your tale will need a hero (you or your organisation) and a villain (the problem you have solved) and if it has an innocent victim (your customers) then it will be even stronger.

And it should have a beginning, middle, and end.

Get straight into your story in the submission - don’t feel compelled to introduce it by saying something like ‘here’s a story which shows that…’ or through a sub-heading called ‘our story’.

 

Put people in your story

People love stories that involve people, and including them directly in your award submission will help it stand-out.

Quotes from colleagues, customers, and stakeholders about the impact of what you have achieved will help bring the crucial human element into the entry.

 

Substantiate claims

It could be tempting to fill your submission with bold claims about your success.

But, unless you can back these up with facts, figures, and examples then they are just claims and ultimately are pretty meaningless.

Judges will be looking for evidence to ensure that claims are more than just rhetoric.

 

Show don’t tell

Do you always ‘put customers first’? Is your business ‘client-centred’, ‘visionary’ or ‘innovative’?

These tired adjectives are not only overused but they are also all rather hollow.

A much more effective approach in awards submissions is to show how you do these things, rather than telling us that you do them.

Show how you are putting your customers first and how you are being innovative. Examples, case studies, stories, quotes and testimonials will all help here.

 

Avoid the jargon

You may understand the technical language and acronyms used in your organisation and industry but there is a good chance it will not mean anything to the judges.

And that could cause them to lose interest.

Stick to everyday language that everyone can understand. Think about how you would explain what you have achieved to a friend or a colleague.

 

Paint a picture

A picture is a worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, and that idiom is particularly true when it comes to awards submissions where there are often word limit constraints.

Images, tables and, infographics can bring entries to life and help make the complex easily understandable.  

 

Proof

You’ve told your organisation’s story. You’ve got facts and figures to support your points and some strong quotes from customers and colleagues.

What a shame it would be then if all that work was undermined by typos, spelling mistakes, and punctuation errors.

The simple fact is that these mistakes make award submissions memorable for the wrong reasons and can ruin otherwise strong entries. Details matter.

We love helping our clients with their award submissions. Our journalist-led approach ensures all our content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content, award submissions or a whitepaper.

 

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

 

Emily Stonham
13th February 2019 - 9 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.