February 23, 2018

Quick primer on responding to negative feedback

Okay, so technically, this isn’t a blogging related article, but since I received the original press release because I’m a blogger, I’ll stretch a point and hope that Rick won’t get too upset with me for posting it here on BBC. 🙂

One of the great challenges I see that bloggers face, particularly business bloggers, is how to respond to negative feedback. Whether it’s private email, a comment left on your blog, or even another blogger publishing a criticism of your posting on their own blog, if you’re going to blog, you need to have a relatively thick skin. More than that, though, you also need to learn how to make the proverbial lemonade out of lemons, how to turn negative feedback into something positive.

A recent example of how to do this showed up in my mailbox when I, along with many other bloggers, received a press release from BlinnPR, agency of record for KeepYouSafe.com, with the ghoulish title


The subtitle explains it a bit better: “Online Safe Deposit Boxes Help Families Avoid Ugly Legal Hassles”. Nonetheless, the entire Anna Nicole Smith story is a sad and depressing tale of greed, the perils of media, and lost souls, certainly not one upon which to hang a PR campaign in my opinion.

Bloggers generally reacted with strongly negative feedback (see Gizmodo, Paul McNamara at NetworkWorld and Ryan Block, for example), but rather than blog about it, I just sent a quick note to Steve Blinn, principal at BlinnPR:

Oh ugh. What a terrible headline and tie-in concept. Sorry, Steven, but this is not good PR in my book.

His response is a superb example of the very best of PR writing, and demonstrates exactly how you can take a negative — a thought leader in your market sending you a blunt criticism — and turn it into an apology and explanation of the benefits of the product and why it’s not as bad as it seems:


Perhaps I did go a bit far in our “Anna Nicole” press release. It was written with tongue firmly planted in cheek and intended to be a take-off on all the tabloid coverage this story has (and continues) to receive.

In many ways, the disarray of Smith and Brown’s estates is indicative of an American culture that avoids contemplating death and its impact on family and friends.

Sadly, many of your readers (even though they’re not celebrities) are similar to Smith and Brown – they haven’t updated their will and they haven’t prepared a burial or interment plan. And, more importantly, whatever documents they do have are not readily accessible upon their death.

Given that issue, the service that KeepYouSafe.com offers, a safe and secure Online Safe Deposit Box, is a possible solution to this issue.

If I erred by writing a provocative headline and lead, I’m guilty as charged. But, the fact remains, many of your readers, just as Brown and Smith, have not updated their wills, have not written down their precise burial and interment wishes, and don’t have those document readily available to their heirs or executors.


My question to you, BBC reader, is how well do you respond effectively, thoughtfully and professionally to criticism when you find it online in any form? I think that Steven’s response is a fine model of the best approach possible and while I still don’t like the headline, he has written a sufficiently smart response that I’m willing to reconsider the possible value of KeepYouSafe.com, to give ’em a second chance as it were.

Note: The email shown here is reproduced with permission. Obviously, I have no other relationship with Steven or KeepYouSafe.com.

13 comments for Quick primer on responding to negative feedback

  1. As a publicity expert and former newspaper editor, I frequently encourage people to piggyback onto celebrity news if there’s a logical tie-in to a product, service, cause or issue.

    In this case, the PR agency went too far.

    But I agree with your assessment of the writer’s response. Not only did he explain the thinking (or lack thereof) behind the release, his comments encouraged you to comment yet again, and to encourage people like me to link to your comment from my blog, which will keep the conversation going.

    It also gives bloggers like me “the other side of the story.” Even though the release reflects poorly on the PR agency, Steven Blinn proved he’s brave enough to at least come forward, share his thoughts and explain why it happened.

    I’ll bet 9 out of 10 other agencies wouldn’t have had the courage to do what he did. They’d just write a crappy release, then look the other way while the bloggers pummel them.

    Comment by Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound — March 1, 2007 @ 12:25 am

  2. […] He got Steve’s permission to post the entire response. […]

    Pingback by The Publicity Hound’s Blog » Writer of ghoulish Anna Nicole press release responds to criticism — March 1, 2007 @ 1:09 am

  3. Dave – Perhaps he gets credit for responding, but it does not outshine the fact that the release was tasteless and should never have seen the light of day in the first place.

    Sadly, it even lacks creativity. A lot of pitches get tied into the latest celebrity death. And I think they should be called out more often.

    Comment by Kevin Dugan — March 1, 2007 @ 2:57 am

  4. There have been a number of public marking/pr snafus of late…Cartoon Network in Boston, Joe Biden, etc.

    We can’t go back in time, but your idea of making lemonade out of lemons is important. I recently sent out an email to my contacts that I thought was obviously tongue-in-cheek. Not everyone agreed. I sent out a mea culpa that actually accomplished what the first set out to do. (You can read the whole story here: http://www.flyteblog.com/flyte/2007/02/dangers_of_emai.html)

    When sending out press releases to bloggers, keep in mind that they’re looking for content. They just may not plan on using it the way YOU intended.

    Steven may have meant it tongue-in-cheek, but unless the people on the receiving end know his sense of humor, it comes off (rightly) as callous.

    Comment by Rich Brooks — March 1, 2007 @ 10:57 am

  5. I try to incorporate the feedback, both positive and negative, into my future site decisions. Give the visitors more of what they like, and try to consider their negative feedback as something you should fix. But the type of headlining you mentioned should be avoided, unless your audience expects it of you. On the flip side, controversial articles like that have sometimes proven to be popular.

    Comment by Brian Laks — March 4, 2007 @ 6:03 am

  6. Dave,
    You rightly point out that bloggers and people in general need to respond positively (and quickly) to negative feedback. Especially when they’ve made a mistake.

    But, how about the fact that Steven Blinn’s targets for the news release was way off? I mean, do you often blog about consumer issues, especially planning for one’s death?

    The news release was poorly written, poorly targeted, and the response wasn’t all that much better. While I understand the why, a simple “I’m sorry. It was wrong” would’ve been better. It seems like Mr. Blinn continued to sell you with his apology (which was never directly offered).

    Comment by Mike Driehorst — March 5, 2007 @ 12:44 pm

  7. Steve Blinn’s response is not only extremely effective PR, it’s a refreshing dose of honesty. Having spent the last four years writing about business ethics as a success driver (I’ve even written a book on the topic–Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First), and having started a movement to create a climate of business ethics worldwide (business-ethics-pledge.org), I see this apology as a very positive step.

    Of course it will be great to get to the point where publicists don’t make these ludicrous self-serving analogies in the first place, but that’s another day. I confess my view on this has evolved, and I used to be more disposed toward that kind of approach with my own publicity clients.

    Comment by Shel Horowitz, Ethical Marketing Expert — March 7, 2007 @ 12:10 pm

  8. My question is a little more tactical. Why was Dave targeted with the release in the first place or did he run across it in the blogosphere?

    Comment by Josh Morgan — March 9, 2007 @ 6:23 pm

  9. You asked for readers’ experiences. Here’s a personal story, which I am working on turning into a Lemonade Time story. I’ve just had my first experience of being criticised, lampooned even, in another blog. Objectively, a passing observation was taken out of context and used to support a point of view of the other blogger and turned into a nasty personal attack. I’m not providing the details because I don’t want to give oxygen to a self-styled “Link Baiter”. My first reaction was to be indignant. I then wrote a comment on the offending post in a possibly futile attempt to put some facts on the table to balance the spleen of the post. On further reflection, I realised this has been an excellent experience for me, in that when I talk or write now – as you have done – about how to deal with criticism, it will be with the benefit of experience. I am set to turn the nasty comments into lovely lemonade. And it’s grist for the mill for presentations and coaching! Thanks for the prompt, Dave.

    Comment by Des Walsh — March 11, 2007 @ 5:46 pm

  10. I recently borrowed a phrase from the famous columnist H.L. Mencken, who was known to respond with a form letter that said: “Dear Sir (or Madam), You may be right.”

    Comment by Alison Bert — March 15, 2007 @ 10:45 pm

  11. […] “If you’re going to blog, you need to have a relatively thick skin.”(Rick E. Bruner at Business Blog Consulting) […]

    Pingback by A Glimpse of Corporate Blogosphere » Blog Archive » Etiquette for Negative Response and Feedback — April 1, 2007 @ 3:33 am

  12. I am very new to blogging. So when I set up my blog all comments get reviewed before any negative comments can be seen by the public.
    However, since my blog is about house cleaning tips I realy do not get any comments. That might change soon when I start a contest for the best cleaning tip.
    This might take up lots of time.
    My quandry is this… Do I write about the effects of illegal imigration on small service providers like myself. This is a very real isssue but could detract from providing a trusted tips blog.
    My blog has also recently popped up on Google’s first SERP… And I am considering adds to take advantage of my ranking and traffic, but I enjoy it’s simple uncluttered feel.
    I am so glad that I have so far avoided the dark side of blogging

    Comment by geeurbie — April 1, 2007 @ 8:49 pm

  13. Handling feedback is important for a business to grow and improve, because without it then most likely the business will stay where they are currently. Doing surveys and having a support forum are some excellent ways to handle feedback.


    Comment by Imutopia — June 3, 2007 @ 5:18 pm

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