From negative opinions to positive promotion

Turning Criticism Into A Statement About Your Brand

Let’s be honest – no one likes to be criticised. For brands and organisations this is especially true as it’s not just a case of bruised egos, but the risk of seriously damaging their reputation or even destroying the business. 

This isn’t new information, however with the ever-growing global obsession with social media, the opportunity for both giving and receiving criticism is more accessible than ever before – and boy, do people take advantage of that. This is exacerbated by the fact that these platforms allow individuals to hide behind the anonymity of a computer and often make much bolder statements than perhaps they would otherwise. 

One of the most direct ways we’ve seen this negativity turned on its head is through Jimmy Kimmel’s ‘Celebs Read Mean Tweets’ segment, taking the power out of the hands of internet trolls and empowering the recipients. 

In the context of brands of course it’s a little more convoluted than that. Why would a company want to shine a light on the negative narrative around them? Instinctively, the preference is to bury it – distract the customer or even divert their attention elsewhere. Sure, that can work but it doesn’t make that sentiment disappear. 

Owning those comments and clarifying your position may seem scary but it is a show of strength.Tackling negativity head-on and reiterating what your brand stands for allows you to tip those comments on their head and – when done well – actually improve perceptions. 

One of our favourite recent examples of this is Channel 4’s ‘Complaints Welcome’ campaign, calling out negative and in some cases, discriminatory comments made by viewers to the broadcaster.Channel 4 has long been known as a liberal, progressive network but confirms this through not apologising or minimising the ‘issue’ but embracing and celebrating what makes it and its stars unique. 

Coming at it from a less direct angle, McDonald’s have taken on pervasive societal ‘myths’ that the fast food giant doesn’t use ethically sourced ingredients with tongue-in-cheek shorts showcasing the high-quality produce used in its meals – the likes of which you could expect in a fancy restaurant or up-market wholefoods store. In fact there are many big brands that have taken a different approach to responding to criticism, including Diesel, KFC & Snowbird ski resort in Utah. 

Understandably for charities, these are murkier waters to navigate and with #CharitySoWhite becoming a topic at the forefront of the sector in the past couple of months, there are obviously some kinds of criticism that (quite rightly) should be taken seriously for what they are. But for many charities, there is an opportunity to look into current public perceptions of their work and discuss tactics to address these in a way that challenges misconceptions and strengthens the message of the organisation. We know that in recent years the public have expressed a sense of mistrust in charities and how the funds they donate are being spent. How might your organisation tackle this? Why not take a leaf from Channel 4’s book and face this problem head-on by running an awareness campaign that shows how money is split or perhaps highlight some case studies which show just how much your service users benefit from the donations. We know that charities across the UK are full of people who care deeply for their work and are doing incredible things – let’s start shouting about it!

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