Wondering how to respond to criticism about your writing? Let’s look at the situation you face in a different way …
For this example, you’re the person criticizing another writer.
That’s right. Have you ever stopped paying attention to content when a publisher stepped up their marketing game?
I know I have.
I’ll turn off a YouTube video faster than I can drink a matcha latte once I learn it’s sponsored by a product I will never buy. And if there are consistent videos for products I don’t want to hear about, I might even stop watching the channel.
Liking the free content on a platform is no guarantee that you’re going to like what the publisher sells.
That’s okay. No one is to blame here. The creator didn’t make a content marketing mistake and the audience member has every right to lose interest.
But there is an important lesson for anyone afraid of marketing or selling more aggressively.
Respond to criticism with this motto: “Fewer people. Tighter relationships.”
“We don’t write much about creating content to generate massive anonymous traffic. We write about creating content to support a business with an engaged audience. Fewer people, tighter relationships.” – Sonia Simone
I think unsubscribes are the best.
Someone who unsubscribes from your content is simply not interested in what you offer. People avoid information that is irrelevant to them — they don’t leave because you’re marketing to them.
It’s great to hear about something that fits your wants or needs. That’s marketing. Whether it’s through content or word of mouth.
If a sponsored YouTube video is about a product that might help me, I’ll definitely keep watching.
But a product that fits my needs might make someone else stop watching or unsubscribe.
That’s why I wrote above that no one’s to blame. However, content creators can always work on building more focused audiences of interested prospects.
Of course every subscriber isn’t going to buy from you, but if a large portion of your “prospects” enjoy content you create that has nothing to do with what you sell … when it comes time to sell, you’ll be disappointed with your results.
Please interested prospects
If you build a list of interested prospects, you can ditch your fear of selling for good.
When you study SEO for content writers, you aim to hook people who are good matches for your products or services.
Even if someone isn’t ready to buy yet, you have the opportunity to educate them about what they need to know to do business with you.
Serve those people, rather than creating content for “everyone,” and forget about those who don’t stick around.
People who don’t like your content don’t stop you from succeeding; they were never a part of your success in the first place.
2 steps when conscientious writers need to respond to criticism
“Everyone” won’t like your writing, but that’s actually a good thing. If everyone who reads your work has the exact same perspective, you probably aren’t reaching new people regularly.
Because when your readership is growing, you’re going to inevitably encounter someone who’s not impressed.
Getting “everyone” to like your content isn’t just ego-driven, short-sighted, and unrealistic … it’s bad marketing. It shows you haven’t yet figured out your Who.
Different types of people need to hear different messages.
- Horseback riders and scuba divers
- Vegans and carnivores
- Farmers and astronomers
It’s natural for horseback riders to have no interest in scuba-diving topics, and vice versa.
If you wouldn’t expect those distinct groups to have the same preferences and tastes, why would you want or expect “everyone” to like your writing style and/or the subjects you write about?
When some people do, and some people don’t, you’re on the right track, but you still might freeze up a bit when you encounter negative feedback.
How do you eliminate any confusion about how to respond to criticism?
Here are two simple steps.
Step #1: Ask yourself, “Is this person the right fit for my audience?”
If you think they are, their criticism may be constructive (even if it stings a little).
This could be an opportunity to:
- Respond to their comment or question with additional resources
- Hold a live Q&A or record a detailed video about the topic
- Expand on your original thoughts in your next post and subsequent content
If you’re committed to publishing your writing on a regular schedule and building relationships, this is the stuff content marketing’s made of: You turn feedback into new content.
Remember, it’s your platform. You’re in charge of the next move, so don’t let the need to respond to criticism shake your confidence and disrupt your writing voice. Stick with your creative vision.
Someone who is indeed part of your audience may also miss your point and write a comment about it. That’s on them. It’s nothing to get too tripped up about either. Onward …
If you’re fairly certain that the person criticizing your content is not the right fit for your audience, go to Step #2.
Step #2: Ask yourself, “Why isn’t this person the right fit for my audience?”
Put bluntly, people who aren’t in the market for what you offer — and who don’t get you — aren’t worth your time.
They’re in the wrong place.
You could explain yourself to them all day long and likely not change their beliefs. So, spot those people and ignore them accordingly.
But before you filter out that type of feedback, there’s also an opportunity here to get more clear about the people who are the right match for your content.
If you think a certain piece of criticism is from someone who’s in the wrong place, why? Why isn’t your offer for them?
Could it be for them, without abandoning your values? How can your answers to those questions help you discover more about the people who will benefit from what you have to say?
Hold the water
Go deeper with your ideal prospect rather than water down your content in attempt to please someone who’s not part of your intended audience.
And what about when you get positive feedback and smart comments?
Don’t get too elated by praise either. Instead, use it as fuel to focus on how you can keep serving those people over time.
If you’d like to learn more about content marketing that works? Grab our free ebook for new writers below …
Reader Comments (13)
Superb post Stefanie, I believe most of us tend to get carried away by emotions while responding to negative comments. More often than not, there is a knee-jerk reaction.
Everyone has the right to express themselves. It is important to stay cool and respond with logic rather than letting your emotions subdue your logical side.
I liked your views on getting an opportunity out of negative comment. I will definitely use that on social channels.
Fantastic post, thank you. And a great reminder not to let praise get the better of you.
I wish I had read this before my first rejection sent me crying to the bathroom. (For a horse article, funnily enough. I guess the editor was a scuba diver).
Matea Dragosavljevic says
Nice post! Exactly how I struggle nowadays because I started to write my content on my website but I think I was hyper-creative! But I start over and don’t give up, focus on my target audience, their questions, and problems to solve their problems. So they can get solutions to their problems.
Thank you for sharing your post because it relates to my current problem!
Keep up the good work!
Thanks for the great tips! It’s true that there will always be people who don’t like your content, no matter what. This is a great way to demonstrate the need to identify your target audience.
Sean Denny says
I’m excited for when this is a problem I will end up having to go through. In the meantime, I will continue to make content until and long after I’ve had the opportunity to deal with these kinds of people.
I love the point about turning it into a new content opportunity. If they can point out a flaw or a new viewpoint, it’s a great chance to spin up a new, potentially larger conversation between you and the audience.
Ryan Biddulph says
Forgetting about people who do not stick around is a valuable piece of advice because it moves the fear and associated sting of criticism out of your mind. Then you can simply help people who want what you have to offer versus trying to fight, debate or worry about people who do not want what you have to offer. It’s never personal. Critics simply project their fears on to you and it’s up to you to let them and their opinions go. What they say has everything to do with them and nothing to do with you because we see the world as we see ourselves.
Stefanie Flaxman says
Well put, Ryan!
Rajesh Chandra Pandey says
Once again, a great post. Thanks Stefanie.
I thought I’d remember or recall all the hacks in the post if I remembered the term INTERESTED PROSPECTS.
Now onwards, I’m always going to question myself as to whether my writing is going to create and serve ‘interested prospects’.
Stefanie Flaxman says
Sounds good, Rajesh!
Jeff MacGuire says
I was once told that action causes reaction. Do and you will be judged. To not produce is to be stagnant. One must live even if it kills them. Experience colours the being. From birth we are criticized and hopefully we are able to move forward beyond and through the criticism to journey a broader road.
Stefanie Flaxman says
It’s so much more than just about writing, right Jeff? Human stuff. 🙂
Alison Ver Halen says
How you respond to criticism says so much more about you than how you respond to praise, and you’d better believe your prospects are watching.
Stefanie Flaxman says
This article's comments are closed.