7 tips for addressing negative feedback on your content

Many of us run blogs, write articles or manage social media for our organizations. In any of these scenarios, we may have been faced with – or may one day face – a situation where a reader responds with a negative comment on the content, or the organization or person responsible for the content. Comments can range from disgruntled, to scathing, to downright slanderous. How do you address negative comments? Here are seven tips, based on an article by Brian Appleton, published in the Content Marketing Institute blog.

1. Play it cool 

Appleton reminds us that responding in the heat of the moment usually makes things worse. He adds: “Take the time to consider your reply and don’t jump to conclusions. First, consider the context of the complaint and then formulate a response.”

2. Understand your responsibility

Your responsibility first and foremost is to your target audience and stakeholders. They deserve the most attention and effort devoted to addressing a negative comment. “If the commenter isn’t part of your target market, don’t go overboard to appease him or her,” says Appleton. Address the issue in the most appropriate way given the context, and use the opportunity to showcase your brand in a positive light.

3. Resist the urge to go generic

What’s worse than ignoring a negative but valid comment? Responding with a generic statement. If your response is clearly copy-and-paste and is not customized to address the concern, you will further infuriate the commenter, and may even infuriate and frustrate other readers who up until then had a favourable view of your organization or work. You may lose supporters.

4. Identify hopeless interactions

In some cases, you may encounter commenters that you know you will not be able to reason with. These people include trolls – described by Appleton as “people who enjoy stirring up trouble by trying to provoke irrational or emotional responses” – or disgruntled stakeholders (for example, ex-employees or partners) who have a personal vendetta.

When dealing with slanderous comments, comments that your audience would deem offensive, or comments that could put your stakeholders in harm’s way, it is acceptable to hide or delete such feedback. In less damaging cases, you may choose to either: (a) directly respond to the comment in a professional manner that counters the claims with specific examples (such as links to articles, publications or data supporting your position); or (b) avoid unnecessary back-and-forth with the commenter by not directly responding to the comment but addressing it nonetheless in a separate post or statement. In this post or statement, you should also counter any negative claim made with evidence to support your position.

5. Block or ban (in rare circumstances)

In addition to hiding or deleting highly damaging feedback, it is also acceptable to block or ban specific commenters as a last resort. But before doing so, try to see if a peaceful resolution that preserves your brand’s integrity and addresses legitimate concerns is possible.

6. Respond kindly, not in kind

In all cases, remain professional. Do not resort to ‘fight fire with fire’ approach, mockery, or other inappropriate responses. You may gain some fans, but in the long run, this may damage some of your key stakeholder relationships, given that such responses will likely not be consistent with your brand – the brand the your stakeholders know and trust.

Instead, make a real effort to truly understand the issue at hand, and the actual/underlying intent of the comment. “Once you think you understand how the message was intended, you can craft an appropriate response,” says Appleton. And remember: ensure that your response is professional and consistent with your brand.

7. Transform the conversation 

“Turn a negative into a positive by changing the narrative and owning the experience,” says Appleton. For non-profits, this could mean using your response to acknowledge your failure and, more importantly, explain what you are doing to learn from and address the failure. In other cases, an author can own their mistake and unapologetically laugh about it with their audience. In all cases, always be transparent, accountable and true to your brand. By doing so, you will build trust and be more positively perceived by your audience.

Bonus tip: Prevention is the best medicine

“It’s always best to anticipate problems and address potential concerns before your content goes live,” adds Appleton. I couldn’t agree more. You can save yourself a lot of stress by putting in the work beforehand to anticipate and address issues and concerns.  Some ideas include:

  • Addressing potential issues that may be raised by readers in the content itself
  • Banning offensive words in your social media channels, via the platform’s settings (such as on Facebook) or by sharing guidelines and codes of conduct
  • Upholding your brand’s integrity, transparency and accountability in all facets of your work
  • Working with all partners to ensure that your brand consistently delivers positive and impactful results

Using the above tips can help you address real concerns and issues in a way that satisfies your stakeholders, turn doubters and detractors into believers and followers, and enhances your overall brand perception. Good luck, and let me know if I’m missing any critical points in the comments section below. In a future post, I’ll explore other aspects of crisis communications, such as addressing negative press.

Featured photo: Flickr Creative Commons © Jerry Bunkers

3 strategies for nurturing a content writer into an industry expert

Here’s a scenario: Jane, a senior writer for a small social enterprise, recently hired a talented junior writer, Chris. Jane was really impressed by Chris’ skills and background, and she came out of the recruitment process with great expectations for what Chris could do for her organization. A few months later however, Jane finds that the strength of Chris’ writing as it relates to the organization’s industry is significantly wanting. What should she do?

Writing for the Content Marketing Institute blog, Joe Griffin offers three strategies that managers can use to help their writers become industry experts quickly and effectively:

1. Help them know what they don’t know

“Before writers can effectively craft that first sentence, they need to know their boundaries. They need to know their audience. And most importantly, they need to know what big conversations are happening in the particular field,” says Griffin.

Ensure that new writers develop a good understanding of your industry and relevant themes and topics they will be writing about, before their writing assignments begin. Griffin suggests that someone on the team prepares a primer of industry information or a list of answers to key industry questions for the writer at the onset of a project.

Other good ideas, particularly for nonprofits, could include getting your writer to participate in industry workshops, events or field missions, where they can engage more closely with specialists, project managers and communities. These activities have certainly helped me rapidly improve my understanding of the themes and approaches that I have written about during my nonprofit career.

2. Supply a list of competitors to watch and study

“Quite a few content writers make the mistake of trying to establish themselves as thought leaders before taking a page out of the real thought leaders’ playbooks,” says Griffin.

Invest more time in researching who the top thought leaders are in your industry. This can include getting someone in your team to make a list of the top 10 most-viewed writers in your field on Medium or LinkedIn, or a spreadsheet of the most prominent voices on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other digital platforms. You could also utilize keyword research to find the most dominant bloggers or organizations in your industry, and have content writers listen to the top industry-relevant podcasts on iTunes.

Griffin adds: “At the end of the day, being a content marketer is a game of attention and value. For content writers to help a brand stand out among the competition, they have to deliver more value than anyone else in that space. The only way they will be able to deliver more is when they know who is currently setting the bar and how.”

3. Teach them to measure and adjust based on performance

“Every content writer should, on some level, be an analyst,” says Griffin.

Writers need to measure their performance and success over the long term, in order to improve, adapt and ensure that their work is providing value.

In addition to nurturing the art of writing, managers must also promote the value of setting targets and monitoring and evaluating performance through data gathering and analytics.

Griffin adds: “Data can tell a writer if people are reading or not, if people are engaging or not. Data can help writers know whether their work resonates with the target audience.”

Reflecting on the strategies

Griffin emphasizes that in utilizing these three strategies, managers and mentors should focus less on teaching and more on guiding their writers’ learning process so that they continue to educate themselves. “A great content writer is not so much taught but empowered,” he adds.

Griffin also points out that these strategies are not just for nurturing junior content writers. Smart and successful content writers that consider themselves industry experts “continue to cycle through these steps, always looking for what they don’t know, always keeping an eye on the competition, and always measuring their performance over the long term.”

Featured image: home thods, Flickr Creative Commons

5 online engagement ideas for nonprofits

Writing for Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog, Kerri Karvetski offers up some creative ideas that can help nonprofits engage their audiences online.

1. Ask artists to illustrate

As part of a larger hashtag campaign, invite an artist or artists to illustrate your supporter’s thoughts submitted online. Or devise a more focused campaign for illustrators to share original ideas and thoughts through art – like this UNICEF campaign.

2. Make a reading list

Curate your own list relevant for your supporters, while encouraging them to share their own through your social media channels.

3. Story contests

Karvetski suggests launching a six-word story contest for small digital spaces, such as Twitter. Other writing-related contests centred around short stories longer than six words, or poetry, could also spur engagement. UNICEF’s ‘Tiny Stories’ campaign is a great example.

4. Bumper sticker contest

Invite your supporters to submit bumper sticker ideas, then choose the best ones and ask your supporters to vote for their favourites. Supporters can then order their favourite bumper stickers via a small donation.

5. Instagram contest

Invite your supporters to spread the word about your cause through a 30-day Instagram campaign, complete with an engaging hashtag. A theme can be posted and shared each day, and supporters can post original images reflecting that theme, and using the campaign’s hashtag. You could even select winners each week or at the end of the campaign, awarding them with appropriate prizes.

Featured photo: http://klarititemplateshop.com/, Flickr Creative Commons

Tapping into social media to boost nonprofit learning

How can social media drive learning in non-profit programmes? One answer can be found in an innovative project funded by the Global Sanitation Fund, under the Cambodia Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Improvement Programme (CRSHIP). The project focuses on generating real-time, emergent learning for actors coordinating sanitation and hygiene activities under CRSHIP, to solve complex problems as they occur.

These actors have been encouraged to use social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Google+, to document their observations and immediately share them with peers. The Learning Network on Facebook has emerged as the most successful platform. Through the platform, implementing partners, programme management staff, sector partners, and government staff share photos, videos, case studies and other content. In addition, a small team managing the platform shares tools, facilitates discussions, monitors, summarizes and expands on the emerging learning and documentation on the platform.

Udom Sok Ek, Programme Coordinator for CRSHIP implementing partner Sovann Phoum, explains how the platform has made the learning process more effective: 

“There is a case when I organized a community meeting. Villagers joined the meeting for a while and they left. Only several people stayed until the end of the meeting. I did not know what to do back then. Without [the real-time platform], I would have to wait until the quarterly meeting to discuss the issues. But now, as soon as our problems occur I [can] write on the Learning Network Facebook page. Then I [can] receive a lot of suggestions from other partners regarding what they would do when facing similar problems.”

The Facebook platform has also proved to be a useful programme management tool, enabling CRSHIP management to monitor progress on the ground, and identify and address challenges early, in real time.

Learn more in the video below.

Social media for social marketing: Building a movement for equality

As part of my social media for social marketing series I’m highlighting a diverse range of examples that exemplify this approach in very creative ways.

Last time, I looked at the #LikeAGirl campaign, and now I’ll briefly highlight the impact of the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC’s) Facebook Logo campaign.

In 2013, HRC catalyzed a movement supporting marriage equality, helping overturn Proposition 8 in California and the Defense of Marriage Act. HRC modified its logo by changing its colours to red and pink (see featured photo)—colours frequently associated with romance and love.

On March 25, 2013, the day before the Supreme Court was scheduled to start deliberations on Proposition 8, HRC posted on Facebook encouraging users to adopt the modified logo as their profile picture. The message was shared over 125,000 times. The logo and variants spread through the network, through millions of everyday users and social media influencers such as Beyoncé, George Takei, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen DeGeneres and Martha Stewart. A large number of supporters created their own remixes of the HRC logo, which was a testament to the ability of the campaign to engage and inspire.



The campaign drove over 700,000 unique visitors to HRC’s website in just 24 hours. More than 100,000 of them signed and shared HRC’s ‘Majority Opinion’ petition, recruiting more than 67,000 new supporters. Government leaders and corporations showed their support through Facebook posts and images. Not only did the campaign help overturn Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, it also helped make same-sex marriage become much more socially acceptable to support and advocate for. And the campaign itself won multiple awards to boot.

Read more about the campaign