Adam Fisher
1st October 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

Our guide to copywriting jargon

Adam Fisher 16th May 2018 — 7 mins read
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wenty years down the line these terms are second nature to me, but I have to keep reminding myself that to many others they are a mystery.

Content production, like any other industry, has words, phrases and acronyms which while meaningful to those working in it, mean nothing to those outside.

Of course, we don’t use these terms in our content (we are still on a mission to eradicate all jargon from content), and we try to avoid using them when talking to clients.

But we thought it would be fun to take you through some of the frankly, often bizarre, and sometimes morbid terms we use and explain what they mean.

So here is our guide to copywriting jargon:

 

Above the fold – Traditionally this referred to broadsheet newspapers, with the top half of the page being above the fold, and therefore being the most prominent place for an article. It is now a term that is used in web design, referring to the part of the page visible without scrolling.

Blurb – The blurb is similar to a byline (see below). It is a brief introduction to the author that follows the headline.  If you look at our magazine In This Issue you will find some short text on each main article which details who wrote the piece and their experience.

Byline – The byline on a piece of content gives the name of the person who has written it. But it is not really about giving credit to the author. It is more of a tool which adds legitimacy to an article. For example, if you looked up the author of this post, you will see that I should know what I am talking about. When the byline is from maybe a senior leader in an organisation, or a particularly experienced writer, it can play a role in encouraging the reader to keep reading. The byline has evolved in recent times and will sometimes include a small bit of background on the author, or perhaps a Twitter handle so that readers can continue the conversation. 

Churnalism – Not a phrase you would hear at Thirty Seven. This refers to the practice of churning out content and articles rather than producing fresh, original and well-researched material.

House style – This refers to an organisation’s rules for writing, spelling and presenting content. For Thirty Seven, for example, one of the house rules is that numbers one to nine are always written out. In my experience, particularly from working in newspapers, any attempt to move away from house style is often met with profanities from editors and a stint in the naughty corner.

Greek – This is what we call the nonsensical text used when we are designing the layout for some content and the real copy is not yet available, even though it is actually Latin. You will probably have seen it at some point starting with ‘Lorem Ipsum’. This dummy text has more-or-less normal distribution of letters allowing the design to look complete so that it can be shared with a client. 

Gutter – No, not a reference to tabloid journalism. This refers to the white space in a magazine where two pages meet. It can also refer to the white space between text columns.

Hook – Hooks are a crucial component of effective content. These are the bits which keep your readers interested and engaged. They may be unusual facts, emotive examples, eye-catching statistics or perhaps posing a question the reader wants answered. Essentially, anything that encourages someone to keep reading the content is a hook.

Kerning – This may sound like some slightly obscure Winter Olympics sport, but kerning is actually the process of adjusting the process of space between letters.  I’m told by our designer that this is actually an ‘art’. But I write the words around here and I would describe it as a way of adding some polish to the design and improving legibility. Kerning can play a key role in eliminating orphans and widows, which sounds a lot more brutal than it actually is (more on those terms soon).

Kicker – This helpfully has a few different meanings when it comes to content. Traditionally, it has referred to a line above a headline which reveals something about the content – a sort of headline on the main headline.  More recently, it has also come to mean something surprising or poignant that is used to end a piece of content.  So if you hear us talking about a kicker, we could be discussing something at the beginning of a bit of content or something at the very end – helpful.

Orphan – One of the content world’s more morbid terms and something that is often confused with a ‘widow’. Even by those in the industry. It refers to a single word which appears at the top of a column or page. It is considered a villain of typography as it causes poor horizontal alignment at the top of a column or page. The key to remembering the difference is that an orphan is alone at the start, while a widow is alone at the end. Dark.

Pull quotes  A pull-quote is a strong, attention-grabbing quote, which has been, well, ‘pulled’ from the main text to add some visual flair to lengthy articles and make them more appealing to readers. Ideally, they are short, direct quotes, used to break up large sections of words and encourage the reader to keep going.

They are sometimes also called ‘callouts’ – but not by us.

Sidebar  This one more or less does what it says on the tin. It is a short article in a magazine or on a website sitting next to next to the main piece, which contains additional and supporting information  

Spike – Hopefully you won’t get to hear us use this phrase. It refers to a decision not to publish a piece of content or an article.

Standfirst – This is the term given to a brief introductory summary often used on longer forms of content. Its role is to give the reader an overview of what they will find in the rest of the blog or article and encourage them to invest their time in continuing to read. Generally, a standfirst will just be a few lines. Brevity is considered key.

Strapline – A strapline in print terms is a headline beneath the main headline, written in a smaller font, and used to give the reader further teaser information about the article.

Subheads – Subheads are the little headlines, usually one or two words long, that you will see scattered across longer forms of content. They serve a dual purpose. Firstly they break up the content making it appear less daunting for the time-pressed reader. Additionally, they make it easier for people to scan content to get a good idea of what it is about.

Teaser – This refers to a few lines of copy designed to encourage a reader to find the rest of the article. A printed magazine, for example, could include a teaser on the first few pages for a piece appearing further back in the publication.   

 

Tracking – Similar to kerning, but tracking is the process of adjusting the spacing throughout an entire word. Once kerning has been used to get the spacing right between each letter, tracking can be used to change the spacing equally between every letter at once. Clever hey? Still not an art though. (Stop picking fights with our designers Adam – Ed)

Widows – Another bleak term and something which is very similar to an orphan.  It refers to a short line – usually a single word - at the end of a paragraph or column. This is a design problem in printed content as it leaves too much white space between paragraphs.

WOB – Quite simple this one. It means white on black and refers to white text on a black or other coloured background.

 

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

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.