Recently, an article appeared in the Wall Street Journal that documented the gyrations that some families go through to balance their work and their family lives. Through some network connections we were a featured family in this article — the first mentioned in the story and the only family with a photo spread. (Yes, that’s me in my slippers — I work at home, aren’t you jealous? ) It was an interesting experience, to be sure, and one that left us with some ambivalence about having agreed to participate.
One of the most interesting things about participating in the article was the reaction of the Journal-reading web audience whose comments were cutting and highly negative (friends were very supportive). In all honesty we weren’t completely prepared for that sort of reaction, though in this day and age everybody has an opinion to which they feel entitled to vent, and we should have anticipated some backlash.
In light of our personal experience, I now have a better understanding of how to deal with negative comments that I can use to more effectively guide clients. I always make sure my clients understand that when they put themselves out on the web people are free to sound off, and will. As a result, social media participants need a response plan to deal with both the good and the bad. Being involved with various social media channels is already one very positive step to demonstrating engagement with your customers. I did engage in the comments section of the article, but only to a point. Since the story and the comments were personal we eventually opted to ignore them.
Ignoring the negative in a business situation is not an option, or at least not the first option. In a business context you can and should engage the unhappy customer but not to the detriment of your other customers. There comes a time when you must realize, as we did, that you can’t please everybody, and folks are free to say what they want. Deal with the squeaky wheel as best as you can in an honest and forthright fashion — don’t hide, don’t let the negativity fester, don’t ignore the unhappy customer and say “you’re a nobody,” but also have an exit strategy.
Another outcome of our participation in this article was that when a Today Show producer, who had seen the article, contacted us to do a TV segment, we declined.