Why you should engage with your harshest critics

The power of listening: Transforming brand critics into advocates

One of my clients, Sally, called me yesterday to tell me that she had received some negative feedback about her brand imagery.

The complaint came in the form of a harshly worded hand written note and accused the brand of being sexist by using a picture of a young woman in the marketing material.

Sally was particularly upset with the feedback as there was a lot of consideration for the brand imagery to ensure it represented a cross section of the audience. Her company is also run by two women who are very conscious of the challenges operating in a male dominated industry.

As a brand owner it can be very difficult to receive this sort of feedback. However, the challenge is to see this as an opportunity, rather than a criticism.

The mistake many brands make is to ignore complaints or disrespect the people who make them. If someone takes the time to complain about your brand, no matter how unfair you feel the feedback is, listen and recognise them. Even better, genuinely engage with them to understand their point of view.

Barry is a potential influencer in Sally’s industry, so his complaint was one that carried even more weight. As he had left his contact details, I recommended that Sally call him to understand his issue with the picture and address some of his concerns.

Barry was delighted that Sally had taken the time to listen and respond. He had some genuine concerns about sexism in the industry but admitted that he had probably overreacted. In particular, he recognised that the image was just one in a suite images of young people that represented the audience, including both male and females from different cultural backgrounds.

By the end of the call Sally had built a new advocate for her brand. Barry was also keen to learn more about their offer and receive some more brochures.

Ultimately, people who take the time to reach out with complaints do so because they care. By engaging with complainants – listening to their concerns and putting forward your brand’s point of view – you may find they learn to care about your brand too.

Note: The names have been changed to protect client and customer identities.

Michael Hughes

Michael is Managing Partner and Strategy Director at Truly Deeply, a brand agency with 25 years’ experience working with brands to position them for growth. His deep expertise is in unlocking the strategic power of your brand to create a differentiated, compelling and authentic brand proposition that will engage all your audiences. Michael has extensive experience working across Australia and the Middle East working with leading Australian and International organisations across just about every sector.

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