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

Time saving Word tips for PR pros

Iain Wallace 20th February 2018 — 3 mins read
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ell, at Thirty Seven we believe in making content creation as simple and efficient as possible.

Sometimes this involves adopting the latest technology to incorporate interactive games, contests and podcasts into corporate marketing strategies.

And on other occasions it can mean revisiting the tools we have used for years – like Microsoft Word – and finding ways to do things that little bit better.

So in this blog we thought we’d share some of the Word tips and tricks that our content creators love.

Tip 1 – Filling the gap

How many times have you been preparing content in Word when not all the information is immediately available? You still want to do the ground work on the document and check the layout so you need some filler text. There’s only so many times you can repeat the words ‘blah blah blah’ across your document before it looks a bit silly, so for some more realistic looking holding text you can ask Word.

For paragraphs of random text, simply type =rand() or if a bit of Latin is more your thing you can get the same by simply typing =lorem(). The standard is three paragraphs but place a number between the brackets and you’ll get the equivalent number of paragraphs of filler.

Go try it now and see what you get…

Tip 2 – Losing it

It’s very easy to lose your place when editing various sections of a document, especially when you are being continually side tracked by telephone calls, urgent emails and impromptu meetings.

When you finally get back to the work you set out to do, using <Shift> + F5 will allow you to cycle directly to the spots that you have edited most recently. Using the same shortcut on a newly opened document will put you straight back to the location where you were most recently working, allowing you to dive straight back in before the phone rings again.

Tip 3 – Repetitive strain

If you find yourself repeatedly dipping into certain words or phrases in your content, such as the sign-off at the end of blog posts, the clipboard panel could be your answer.

Open the panel using the small dropdown arrow next to the clipboard and the items you copy will stack up one by one, up to a maximum of 24. This gives you an always available list that you can pick from with a single click at any point in your document.

Even after you close down Word completely the full list is still there the next time you open a document.

Tip 4 – A ‘case’ in point

When consolidating background documents written by different authors you can save hours furiously editing or retyping erroneous upper and lower case letters by using the ‘Change Case’ button.

This button allows you to change entire sections of text from upper to lower case and vice versa as well as providing options to capitalise the first letter of each word and so on. What’s more, selecting your text and using <Shift> + F3 will allow you to do pretty much the same thing by toggling through the different case options until you’re happy.

Tip 5 – Not a paintbrush

Format Painter is another supremely handy tool when gathering and combining content from different sources. Far from anything to do with painting as the icon suggests, this button actually allows you to reformat huge swathes of text into your chosen style.

Select some text that’s in your preferred style. Hit the ‘Format Painter’ button and then drag your mouse over the separate section of text that you want to re-format to your chosen style. Quick, easy and a definite time saver.

We love the fact we are still finding out new things about a programme that has become an integral part of daily life for so many of us for so long. What Word features could you not live without?


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.  

Adam Fisher
29th January 2018 - 3 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.