With a little more time on my hands now, I have a lot of ideas for posts – so I’ll be blogging more in between home projects. (Bought a pressure washer yesterday – awesome. Of course, now I have to paint that fence. Less awesome.)
But a post from Paul Gillin caught my eye this morning as I reflected on things. On the CMO blog, in a post entitled ‘Why Brands Should Love Public Complaints’, Paul notes that companies need to recognize that negative comments are a part of the new interaction between brand and market, and that censoring those complaints can do more harm than good – because the only thing worse than a brand who doesn’t respond to your complaints is one that deletes the complaint, too.
Media are in a tough spot in this – because it’s so often that complaints are targeted at individuals within the organization. What’s been the number one issue brought up by commenters at my most recent news jobs? No question – wardrobe. Not editorial slant, not content complaints – clothing. The biggest other complaint? – personnel changes.
What makes these two topics hard is that they are so targeted at individuals, and often are purely a matter of personal tastes. In the past, the general advice (which I still hear a lot) is, “Well, just ignore them. You can’t worry about it.”
But you can, and you need to whenever possible. In my time at NECN, I worked as diligently as I could to respond to questions and complaints we received on social media and email – and more often than not, there were responses that I could send out that were appropriate, addressed the issue and gave the audience member who asked the question a real, human response.
There were lines I didn’t dare cross. I didn’t delve into all personnel moves – but often at a place like NECN, changes aren’t caused by scandal and outrage, but by decisions made my the talent themselves to move on to bigger and better jobs. A member of the team might give a goodbye message at the end of a newscast, but that’s not going to be seen by everyone. So when someone writes in to ask where their favorite anchor has gone, it’s a no-brainer to say, “Karen has moved back to New Orleans, where much of her family is, to be the main anchor for the #1 station there.” Who can blame someone for making a choice like that? It puts a human face on the business and makes it clear that someone isn’t just disappearing from a fan’s TV. They’re going somewhere.
And editorially, there are answers that can be given to many questions, and even just a reassurance that a viewer’s inquiry is being sent to the people who should be reading it is acknowledgement that the viewer’s voice is being heard.
As for the ad hominem attacks on individuals and/or their wardrobes? There’s still a judgment call to be made, whether there is a good way to respond. And sometimes there isn’t. If someone writes “Your anchor sucks,” there’s probably not a great response to be made – by often, another member of the community comes to the defense of those being attacked. Or the troll gets ignored – and disappears.
I can’t tell you the number of times the response back to my replies has been a mixture of thank you, shock that there was a response, and perhaps, a thoughtful, extended response that companies have to pay focus group firms thousands of dollars to receive normally.
You can’t live and die by your comments in the media business. But by responding, you can turn a potential negative into a positive.