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MarCom Matters

April 2014
Issue: #54

Everyone’s a Critic

The first time I saw Jimmy Carter was 1975.

I was a wide-eyed freshman at a small college in New Hampshire. And he was a wide-eyed presidential candidate just starting his long run-up to the country’s first primary election.

None of us students knew who he was. Nor did we seem all that interested. But the administrators and faculty had conspired to make sure that his speech was well attended. So there we were.

I don’t recall what he talked about, but I do remember that the event wrapped up precisely at dinner time. The smell of Shepherd’s Pie was in the air. So I headed for the cafeteria, nodding to Jimmy as I walked past.

He was standing alone, with a bewildered look on his face. Probably wondering how it was that no one wanted to stop and talk or ask a question.

It was a lost opportunity for me. A classic, “if I knew then what I know now” moment.

I thought about that episode last week as I watched him being interviewed about his latest book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power.

Now whether you agree with Jimmy’s positions or not, you have to admit he’s not afraid to take on big controversial issues, even knowing he’ll have to ride waves of personal criticism.

Turns out, a related topic surfaced last week in a blog post by social media author Mark Schaefer. He wrote about the challenge of dealing with cyber trolls – those, usually anonymous, commenters who do nothing but spew personal barbs in blogs, online publications and social media platforms.

But the thing is, you don’t have to be an ex-president or popular blogger to attract that kind of stuff.

In fact, you don’t even have to be a writer.

Some of my own friends have been berated simply because they are teachers, political office holders or community advocates who were featured in online news articles.

What, then, do these scenarios have to do with you as a business owner or marketer?

It’s this: Negativity comes in different forms, from being ignored to valid criticism to customer complaints to competitive sniping to bad journalism to personal attacks.

Some situations are easier to handle then others. Most bad ones will likely never happen.

But rather than trying to cope with each individual case as it arises, think about extending your current crisis plan or outlining a comprehensive digital response guideline.

Here are a few things to consider…

Most important, don’t let the specter of the troll create a barrier to publishing thought-provoking content.

Even if, as in Jimmy’s case, the troll turns out to be a rabbit.