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.

Adam Fisher
26th June 2018 - 5 mins read
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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

Long vs. Short

Mark Mars 19th February 2018 — 3 mins read
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n the other side you have the bigger, older warrior, still looking to give readers a more rewarding, informative and educational experience.

And you would be forgiven for thinking this has increasingly become something of a one side battle, with more and more content dipping below the 1,000 word mark.

At Thirty Seven, we believe brands should act like a publishing house producing a mixture of long and short content.

But we also strongly believe that long-form content is greatly underrated, that its strengths are perhaps not as widely appreciated as they should be and that it is not ready to be backed into a corner or hit the canvas just yet.

Don’t get me wrong, there is some great short-form content about. But it is ubiquitous and consequently it has become really tough for the good stuff to be seen and heard.

I passionately believe the quality has gone out of the industry and that too many agencies just churn out short content because it is the fashionable (and easier) thing to do.

This content almost always lacks depth and leaves the reader craving more detail. I’ve lost count of the times I have clicked on something with an interesting looking headline, only to be left disappointed as I find it consists of around 300 words and offers little or nothing I don’t already know.

In some cases the content is actually closer to the 280 characters of Twitter than anything really meaningful or educational.

And, I’m not alone. Studies have shown that the desire for long-form content has never gone away. More specifically, there has been a trend towards longer content in non-fiction long-form storytelling. From documentary form factors such as ‘The Journey’ from Amex, serial podcasts like Stories of the InterContinental Life, and through social media ‘story platforms’ or a well-worked blog series.

Creating compelling long-form storytelling content is not easy, nor should it be.

Investing in long-form content is sometimes perceived by sceptics as a gamble because of our supposed shrinking attention spans, the time pressures of modern life and a fear of giving away too much knowledge.

But it is a myth that we now have shorter attention spans than goldfish. The statistic sounds great and gives agencies an easy 'out' but it’s just not true and it is damaging content marketing.

Our attention span is changing, becoming more intensive, more efficient and hungrier for information. Human attention spans are nowhere near satisfied with eight-seconds of ideas or content. They want more and according to a recent BBC report, we can all vary our attention spans according to the task at hand.

And actually longer content does not take as long to read as some people believe. It actually takes just seven minutes to read 1,600 words - a length considered by many to be the optimal blog length.

I would argue that this is actually the shortest form of long-form content and that really effective long-form content goes beyond the written word. It is also about video documentaries, podcasts and stories told across various content formats.

 

Long-form content enables brands to take a much deeper look at a subject and really showcase its expertise in an area increasing its credibility and positioning itself as a thought leader ahead of its competitors.

And because people like it, they tend to share it more. Research from Moz and BuzzSumo has shown that despite 85% of all content on the internet being less than 1,000 words, content over that threshold consistently receives more social media love.

As well as resonating with readers it is also rewarded by search engines.

Don’t get me wrong, short-form content certainly has its place, especially when it comes to driving traffic to a website. But it is the longer form which really builds relationships and turn readers into customers.

Of course, it’s harder to write and requires much more research, but get long-form content right and it can deliver a knockout blow for your brand.

 

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
9th April 2018 - 5 mins read