Now, this is not something I want to make a big deal out of, because I’m a pretty positive person.
But I wouldn’t be helping you if I didn’t tackle the subject of what to do when someone hates what you write as part of your content marketing. So here we go…
When you start publishing content, someone at some point is going to get upset. Now if you were just blogging for fun that wouldn’t be too much a problem. But you’re blogging for your business. You’re blogging to build an audience that likes what you say so that they can tell their friends about you and then buy your products or hire you.
Content marketing and the rise of your business popularity
The internet is a wonderful place to market your business. You have the access and opportunity to reach hundreds and thousands of people with the message about what it is you do in your business.
And when you start telling great marketing stories, and writing useful content that your audience loves, you’re probably going to start getting positive feedback.
These might be positive comments on your blog, or social media shares and shout outs. You’re probably going to see an increase in traffic on your site and more leads into your business.
Oh yes you think, publishing content is a great thing to do for your business.
Then someone hates what you do
[signup-form id=”12713″]I don’t know any business owner using content marketing who hasn’t faced real and hurtful criticism at some point.
From emails that tell you to give up your business and get a real job, to blog comments saying you don’t know what you’re talking about, or whole articles disparaging you.
If it happens to you it’s a real kick in the stomach, especially if you’ve been riding the wave of praise for a little while.
Oh, and no matter how many testimonials and endorsements you have telling you how great you and your business is, that ONE negative comment is the one you go to bed thinking about.
Understand, it’s not you, it’s them
The first thing you need to know is that there is a whole heap of information behind the criticism that you are not privy to.
It might look like this:
- Your critic is having the day from hell
- She had a row with her spouse
- He got talked down to by his boss in front of his colleagues (including the one he really, really likes)
- Her mother-in-law is staying for the week and nit-picking at everything she does
- The department that rejected your work is under pressure to go with another supplier
- Your client mis-read your instructions for reviewing your work, panicked and thought it was the final version, not the proto-type or draft
- His pet is sick
- Her kid is having a hard time at school and she hates not being able to be with him to stand up to the bullies
I could go on and on, but it’s important that you understand when someone takes a lot of effort to criticise what you do, it’s because something has touched a nerve with them and their life.
And a lot of the time, there’s nothing actually wrong with your content, what is coming through is an insecurity, fear or hurt that the reader is personally dealing with.
Some people are just having bad days.
Apart from when it is you
Sometimes, you will deserve the criticism.
But that’s not a bad thing, and the beauty of getting negative feedback is that it is still feedback.
If you make a mistake that might affect your business, then it’s much better to know about it so you can correct it, even if it is painful.
I certainly didn’t like hearing from my brothers that a mullet at 15 years old was the most disgusting (and to them, hilarious) thing I could have done to my hair, but I took note and was very careful about selecting future hairdressers.
When your critics strike, it is worth taking a few seconds to ask some questions:
- Was this my best work? Could I have improved it or would I do the same again?
- Do I believe my opinion, or is there an angle I haven’t explored that might change my view (this isn’t a bad thing, it just shows you’re learning)
- Are there any processes I could put in place in the future to prevent this? (Proofing content one last time, making sure clients know what to expect at each stage etc.
If you have made a mistake, be thankful that someone has pointed it out to you. That way you get to learn, correct it and improve your business.
In other words, you win.
The BEST advice ever on facing criticism
The best advice I’ve found about dealing with criticism comes from Mark McGuinness’ book, Resilience: Facing Down Rejection and Criticism on the Road to Success.
I love it because it’s practical, and it’s grounded in real life and not of the – ‘ah, don’t let it get to you’ variety. Criticism is going to get you down, but it doesn’t have to keep it there.
I do recommend getting the book, but in brief, his tips on criticism work like this. First, there are 4 types of criticism:
- Constructive criticism
- Destructive criticism
- Personal abuse
He summarises and offers the following advice on each one as follows:
Feedback is a neutral analysis of your performance. Like watching back a video of giving yourself a speech and seeing how many times you say ‘um’.
It’s not personal, it’s not there to hurt you, it’s there to improve your performance like a good mentor or coach.
A few of the characteristics that Mark uses to define this style of criticism include:
- Specific – the criticism is focused on details not just a ‘I don’t like it’
- Relevant – it’s not distracted by things that don’t matter
- Respectful – it’s not a personal attack on you
This is also a positive thing and helps you learn to improve your performance, or your content and your business. It might not be what you want to hear, but if it makes you stronger, take note!
Contrasting to the above, Mark identifies this type of feedback as:
- Vague – ‘awful, terrible etc.’ There’s no real guidance for you to improve
- Irrelevant – the critic focuses on items that aren’t important to the project
- Disrespectful – it is rude, aggressive or insensitive to the creator’s feelings
Mark says that if this kind of criticism is received from a heckler, or internet troll, think about just ignoring it. If it comes from a client or a boss however, try to ask more questions to find out specifically (and calmly) what is bothering them
Mark defines this as when “somebody makes negative or insulting comments about you personally, with malicious intent”
Mark dedicates 2 chapters to dealing with personal abuse with great tips on what to do when the person is just attacking your feelings, and what to do if they’re actually damaging your reputation.
Next time you find someone doesn’t like what you say and they tell you, ask yourself:
- Is there some truth in this? Can I learn and improve from the feedback?
- Is there a chance they’re just having a bad day?
- Are there any processes I can put in place to stop this happening again?
Then I recommend taking a little break, being kind to yourself and creating another piece of work or content and get back out there!
I hope this has helped and I’d love to hear your stories of facing and overcoming online criticism in the comments below.
Sarah Arrow says
Awww, is this a video response to my daughter (she’s 7 btw) not liking your video the other week? 😉 Only the guy whining sounds very much like her…
Ah that cracked me up! 🙂 No I can honestly say it wasn’t inspired by that, this one’s been in the pipeline for a few weeks now 🙂
And fantastic video–the nightmare client in the video reminds me of one of my worst clients last year… They were a “huge fan” (how flattering!) who really HAD read my work (or had at least skimmed it enough to quote from it) and wanted me to create something “exactly like what you do on your Blog.” So I did. And they hated it. They had me change every single detail until it was completely devoid of any personality and, well, NOTHING like what I do normally. Zuh??
Artists often have similar issues as well. My parents and my hubby are all artists and time and time again I’ve heard them say things along the lines of “Why did this person hire me based on my style…and then refuse to let me use my style?!”
Also: Seriously…who doesn’t love a good wok? I use mine at least once a week.
I’ve definitely seen that with creative people in the past. What makes it more challenging is managing the expectations for a creative piece. You can’t just say ‘you’ll get a 12ft wide shed made from this material, here’s what it will look like…’ Whether you’re writing, or painting the best expectation a client can have is to look at your previous work.
And while it’s a little risk and a challenge if it happens, I wouldn’t change what I do. 🙂
Agreed on all points. 🙂
Thanks for this FAB post, Amy, and I can SO relate. My book can get 5 star reviews all day, but the ugly ones are hurtful. I’ve had hurtful emails and blog comments, too. It’s tough to take, but it is part of business. Thanks for the GREAT post!
Glad you enjoyed it Sue! It’s funny how much of a sting those little negative comments can have. The thing is to not let it stop you helping your real customers and those who love what you do. 🙂