“It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds.” – Theodore Roosevelt
A corporate PR executive who worked for a controversial company once suggested dividing one’s critics into two groups: the reasonable and the unreasonable.
The reasonable critics are people who have legitimate concerns and put forth constructive criticism in an effort to bring about improvement. These are people an organization can and should work with whenever possible. Sometimes, reasonable critics can even be won over to become allies.
The unreasonable critics, on the other hand, are never going to be happy, no matter what you do. They will be suspicious of your motives if you try to work with them, and any action you take will be found to be deficient in some way. You can waste a lot of time and energy dealing with unreasonable critics, and at the end of the day nothing will have changed. They’ll still hate your client or cause, so the best thing to do is simply ignore them.
Plus, by trying to work with these folks, you risk giving them more credibility than they deserve and raising their profile.
These days, advocacy groups and bloggers can put major companies in a spin. If one of your agency’s clients is under attack, start by evaluating which category the critic falls into before taking action. You may find not responding to the criticism is the best course of action.
Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.