The more popular you get, the more likely you'll receive some negative feedback: a scathing 1-star iTunes review, a nasty email, or mean comments. Here are ten ways to deal with this negative feedback toward your blog or podcast.
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I'm presenting this with a lot of “we” pronouns instead of “you,” because much of this is my own experience and a reminder to myself.
1. Don't get depressed from negative feedback
Our first reaction to negative feedback will probably be to get depressed. We may feel like failures, like we should stop podcasting, or like doing something destructive. But don't do give in to the depression!
Yes, words can hurt—they can hurt a lot more than sticks, stones, and broken bones. But we must get past this first reaction and recognize some realities.
- The world isn't out to get us.
- This is one negative comment among probably many positives.
- The more popular we get, the more negatively we'll attract. So when we receive some, it means we're growing!
2. Don't feed the trolls
There can be many reasons for someone to write something unkind. They could be having a bad day, they could have a wrong perspective, or they could just be a plain troll and trouble-maker. We call this last kind of person a troll.
Trolls feed on causing problems. They find a sick pleasure in breaking the rules and annoying others. They act childish, disrespectful, and contentious. We can't change their mind. So don't waste your time and energy on these trolls.
Before moving on, take some time to PAUSE. Firstly, this means not taking immediate action—don't reply, get passive aggressive, or begging for patronization. Secondly, I learned PAUSE as an acrostic in Christian relationship counseling (from Peacemaker Ministries):
- Prepare (pray, get the facts, seek godly counsel, develop options)
- Affirm relationships (show genuine concern and respect for others)
- Understand interests (identify others' concerns, desires, needs, limitations, or fears)
- Search for creative solutions (prayerful brainstorming)
- Evaluate options objectively and reasonably (evaluate, don't argue)
PAUSE before you move on and do anything else after receiving negative feedback.
4. Look for what you can learn and improve from criticism
There seems to always be some piece of helpful truth, even in the most hateful feedback. When we can dig this out, we can find great suggestions for improving what we do to better connect with our audience.
This may require filtering through a lot of “bad fluff”—the nastiness, the hate, the accusations, etc.
If nothing else, the lesson may be that you're being hated for being genuinely you and not someone else. (That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to grow.)
5. Keep and revisit a “praise” folder of positive feedback
Whenever I receive a kind email, I tag it “praise” and upload it to Evernote. You can use whatever tool you want (even simply an email folder, or printing it on paper). If you're a premium member of My Podcast Reviews, you can quickly filter all of your reviews to your top 4- and 5-star reviews. The important thing is for us to have reminders of what we're doing right.
The best kind of feedback contains ten parts praise to every one part criticism. You may see this same ratio in your feedback: ten positive, grateful, uplifting responses for every one negative feedback.
Keeping a praise folder can also help us recognize what's worth fixing and what's not. If ten people say, “I love your sense of humor,” and one person says, “You're not funny. Stop being stupid and be serious,” then we can know that the one negative person is not our target audience anyway.
6. Remember your focus
Why are we podcasting, anyway? Are we trying to change the world for the better with education, entertainment, or other encouragement? Are we so passionate about this topic that we just want to talk about it and hope to find others who share our passions?
Or do we just want our egos stroked with positive reviews?
A negative review shouldn't stop us from pursuing our goals.
7. Go uplift someone else
Our initial reaction to negativity could be to retaliate or take it out on someone else. DON'T! If someone leaves a negative review, go write positive reviews for five other podcasts. If someone sends negative feedback, go thank someone you respect.
This has powerful affects on our own perspective. It's helping us take negative experiences and turn them into moments of positive generosity.
8. Respond respectfully
Near the last thing that we should do in the process of handling negative feedback would be to respond. We should only do this when we're back in the right mindset. This allows us to be understanding of the person's feelings, respectful of the time and courage they took to send us something, and even thankful for how they have helped us in some way.
Write a phrase now, while you may be feeling positive, that you can paste (or use text-expansion) when you have nothing else to say. For example:
Thank you, ___, for your feedback. I understand this matters to you and I really appreciate the time you took to write this out. It may have been a little intimidating to say these things, but I really appreciate that you sent them directly to me. I'm always looking for ways to improve, so your feedback has given me some stuff to consider.
But whatever you do, don't write a review for your own podcast as a responsive to other podcast reviews. Those usually get removed, anyway.
9. Remove the negative feedback if truly necessary
In extreme cases, you may need to just remove the feedback from your website or even iTunes. This would be in cases where there are bitter personal attacks, violations of rules (such as forbidding profanity), or completely irrelevant information (such as leaving a “comment” on a particular episode as a podcast review, or criticizing the TV show you podcast about instead of saying anything about your podcast).
On your own website, you're fully justified to allow or forbid any content you want. Even if you have a public forum, the site is still your private property and it can follow your own rules, within legal limits and the terms of your web host.
On iTunes, you can report individual reviews for several reasons:
- This review contains offensive content
- This review is not a review or is off-topic
- I disagree with this review
- My concern isn't listed here
When something truly deserves removal, your fans and friends will be happy to help report the review, too, and get it removed. I've done this only a couple times for my own shows and a couple times to help others.
10. Or just ignore the negative feedback
Lastly, you could just ignore the negative feedback others are giving.
If people don't like how we do things, we probably won't win them back with a couple changes. They're already gone, so work to make the experience better for everyone who hasn't left.
Sometimes, you may perceive the nature of the negative feedback to be, “You're bad because you're not like ____. You should be more like ____.” No, you shouldn't! You should be you and no one else. Can we and should we improve ourselves? Definitely! But we should always strive to remain ourselves and not become someone else.
In podcasting, we can do things however we want. There are no rules (aside from technical requirements), only recommendations. We must have the guts, the boldness, the courage, the audacity to podcast™!
What I've learned from my own negative reviews
September 30 is National Podcast Day. Since I'm publishing this in the month of September, I'm giving you some behind-the-scenes views of how I podcast, and this is a great opportunity to be a little more transparent and even vulnerable with you!
I am my own My Podcast Reviews customer, and used the new sorting and filtering feature to find all of my 1–3-star reviews. Here they are and what I've taken from them.
by Aussie-Jack from Australia on July 1, 2010
Tends to waffel on a bit, but generally not bad. Second to the PodcastAnswerMan ( Cliff has been doing it for awhile, now ). If Daniel has the long-term passion, he will only get better. Go Daniel! -Congratulations
Wade through to the info
by Podcast Hokudai/Cast from Japan on August 3, 2011
Why I started listening to TAP. I wanted to improve my knowledge of the hardware and software involved in podcasting and videocasting. This podcast has that information. Sometimes presented clearly, sometimes not. If you can wade through the talk, the information is valuable, useful, and timely. If you're a beginner podcaster, TAP can help you get started. He presents things clearly and repeats himself so that you don't have to rewind to catch his instructions. Good for beginners and people easily distracted. Why I get irritated listening to TAP. Sometimes it takes the host a long time to get to the point. If you like tangents and ‘funny' asides, TAP is for you. If you want to be constantly reminded that he has another podcast and a network, TAP is for you. I've stopped counting the number of times he mentions his other podcasts in one show. If you want your information front and center, you're barking up the wrong tree. Why I stopped subscribing to TAP The 8/2/2011 show, show 44. I fast-forwarded through 11 minutes (Eleven!) of self-advertising, asides, chitchat with himself, reminders of his other podcasts, and reminders to listen to show XX for more information, he finally said, “Let's get to it.” And then went off on another tangent. Click, whirl. Unsubscribe. TAP might be just the podcast you're looking for: chatty, informative, easy-going. I'm sure he has many listeners. I listened while I drove to work and an hour podcast is too long, especially when it can be reduced to 30 minutes or less with no loss of information. But if you like a friendly (I like his voice, by the way), talkative AND informative host, check out TAP.
What a great lesson! Now, I get into my main content right away (sometimes with its own introduction) and I think my shows are a lot better because of that.
1 minute of information wrapped in 30 minutes of self promotion!
by gehyra from Australia on August 27, 2012
This podcast has almost no content: it's a merciless listener-grab and affiliate marketing attempt… packed with worthless buzzwords like “How To…” and “Top 5…”, but it doesn't deliver. He seems like a nice guy, and I'm surprised he would try to treat people as naive-cash-cows and listener-statistics… And the sound has a constant whine/hiss behind it! Unforgivable for a podcast that's about podcasting!
I believe “gehyra's” first episode may have been #94, which was all about making money with the Audible affiliate program. I've heard far more gratefulness and success reports from that episode than criticism for promoting my own affiliate relationship. That hiss behind the recording is why I rarely live-stream video while I'm recording—my computer is too old and gets too loud when it tries to keep up with the CPU demand for live video streaming.
Pretty good, but…
by DennisMcC-K from USA on September 14, 2012
Daniel covers a lot of good information, but several aspects bother me enough to unsubscribe. But feel free to judge for yourself. 1. One of the first tips I remember is to be prepared and research anything you're not sure about because nobody wants to hear you trying to remember some detail, but I've lost count of how many times he has mentioned something that's “…either this or that, I'm not sure…” 2. The “Top ##” lists are really annoying when he goes over the entire list so far before each new item. Repetition can reinforce memory, but what about the last few that don't get repeated as much? 3. I found this while looking for tips on using Audacity, but much of his content leans more toward podcasting which is not for me. 4. Call me a Grammar Nazi (is there a more PC term that avoids the N-word?), but his grammatical mistakes, while certainly fewer than some other podcasters I've heard, are just enough to bug me.
More great points! I make sure I can confidently give information, or else I pause and get the answer when I'm unsure. I no longer do the “Twelve Days of Christmas” approach to outlines. On #3, that was a misunderstanding of my marketing, which I knew would be a consequence of naming the show with “audacity” in the title. I wish I could know the grammar errors I had made back then so I could improve them.
I feel like I've just listened to an hour long informercial
by Mrs Benjamin, MN from USA on February 15, 2013
Daniel, I recognize your need to cross promote, and I realize that your income comes from podcasting. I feel overloaded with commercial information, and had quite a difficult time separating out the real content from the commercial content. It's just too much. Sorting out the things I would consider using, and the things I have tried in the past that didn't work, from the commercials just wasn't worth the hour I wasted this afternoon listening to your podcast today. Please accept my apology, Louise B
I have Louise's email address and had tried multiple times to reach out so I could understand how my content seemed like an infomercial, but never received a response. I always try to save self-promotion stuff for at the end of my content, or when it's contextually relevant. I probably did spam some information in too many contextually relevant places, so now I try to ensure these kinds of things are asides, but don't distract from the main content.
Not a fan
by jessalon from USA on July 24, 2013
Daniel the way you breathe into the mic is incredibly distracting and you sound awkward. I couldn't get past the first episode.
“First episode”—I've improved a lot since then, and I continue to tweak settings in attempts to reduce the breathing effects. I have no idea why my breaths sometimes “bounce” in sound, but I am more aware of them and try to edit them out.
These reviews may not be as bad as some you have received. But believe me that each of these stung when I first received them. The review from “gehyra” hurt enough that it inspired me to send an email to my subscribers about how to handle negative reviews.
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This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship and may receive compensation from your actions through such links. However, I don't let that corrupt my perspective and I don't recommend only affiliates.
I say you should preach what you practice!
“4. Look for what you can learn and improve from criticism”
That should be #1 on your list, not number four!
9 out of 10 of your answers could be viewed as ways not to feel bad about negitive feedback.
I also notice that you provided plenty of examples of negative feedback that you received, and you you tried to learn and improve from them (a rare quality).
When someone gives feedback, they must take the time and make the effort to do so. If time is money (and I know you understand that concept), indeed, they are paying to provide you insite. It may hurt to hear it, but it has value. Much value.
I write a lot of letters giving feedback. Some good, some bad, but in every case, I must not only give my time (something that is very costly), and due to a medical condition, it is also very painful to type feedback.
The average letter probably costs me $50 to $100 in billable time to compose, and due to pain, I am often in tears while I write it. The worst feeling I get from the process is that it will either be ignored, or will get treated under the other 8 of 10 ways to deal with feedback.
So in closing, I will say again, “preach what you practice”, and encourage others not just by your own fine example, but with words showing far more reasons than you gave.
In truth, there are only two types of negitive feedback (valid and invalid) and only two ways to deal with it (learn or ignore), and the rest of answers can be sent to Dr. FeelGood.
You seem to be a learner. Help others to do the same.
Joe C. Hecht.
Thank you for the comment, Joe!
I agree that looking for something to learn and improve is the most important part. This was a progressive list. For many podcasters, they won’t be able to see the lessons because they’re too depressed by the feedback, or they respond completely inappropriately and make the situation much worse. Thus, why I suggested it further in the process of handling negative feedback.
What an amazing response! Thank you for writing it.
I had to re-read your opening a few times (and actually read on further) to see where you were going, but this bit stopped me cold and made me really sit here and think: “I am often in tears while I write it. The worst feeling I get from the process is that it will either be ignored, or will get treated under the other 8 of 10 ways to deal with feedback.”
Rarely, if ever, have I thought about the author of a bit of “negative” feedback—or constructive criticism—and what it took for them to write it.
I think Trolls—and the recommendations (here and everywhere) about dealing with Trolls by not engaging—have let me (us?) forget that there is legitimate critical feedback that we receive that is meant as a way to help us improve. I recall at University in a Playwriting course that an “eh” play would get a lot of “Wow… that was greeeeeaaaaat… thank you… um… anyone wanna grab a coffee? Okay bye!” while a really good—if flawed—play could elicit hours of arguing from the students, often spilling over to the coffee house post-class. The arguing and debating weren’t because the play stunk. It was because it had the potential to be not just good but great.
It was an easy lesson to forget, though.
Years later, in my second year of podcasting, I got a negative review on iTunes—one that I thought was unjustified and I mentioned it’s unjustified-ness on the podcast. A listener—who I will always love and admire for taking the time to write—emailed me with this:
“That comment bugged you not because she was wrong, but because you know she was right. You know you’re always trying to release the best show you possibly can because that’s you. That particular one wasn’t one of them. And if she hadn’t said it, somewhere along the line you would have wound up saying it yourself. You just didn’t like the comment being made publicly—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen.”
She was right. And it changed how I saw critical comments from that point forward.
My show isn’t perfect. It’s a one-woman enterprise for the most-part and that implies a lot of potential corner cutting for expediency as well as for sanity. But that doesn’t mean I can’t always be looking for ways to make it better.
Listening to listeners is the fastest route.
So thank you for making me think again and more and more deeply about this—I thank both of you.
Now I’m going to go think some more.
All the best,
Thanks for the feedback, Heather! Trolls would be those have nothing truthful or helpful. They’re just there to stir up trouble.
But we can risk calling someone a troll just because they say something negative. I think that’s the wrong label.
I totally agree. That’s what I liked about your #3 and #4 above. A knee-jerk response to a negative comment might be “#@$)# Trolls” but if you take the time for #3 you give yourself a chance to notice #4—and that gives you a chance to see the difference between critical feedback and a Real Troll.
When I was in training to be a HS teacher, a few of our instructiors told us about “wait time”—as in: ask a question then wait… wait… wait… wait… wait… (like to the count of 10). More often than not, before you got to six a kid would have an answer. But most teachers (most humans?) tend to wait about a second and a half before jumping in and answering the question FOR the kids. Taking the time to pause can be uncomfortable, but SO important.
I loved your list—and how brave you are to share some of your negative feedback and what useful information you got out of it.
Really appreciated this episode, even though my first podcast won’t launch for another 8 days. I have now listened to over 100 of your episodes getting ready for my own podcast, and have really appreciated your systematic approach to the subject. Yes, even the promotional things. I felt they were presented with class, and I think that since this podcast is the public face of all your business endeavors, why wouldn’t there be promotional elements?
Someone with a hobby podcast wouldn’t, somebody with a commercial / business based podcast would. It’s as simple as that. I have enjoyed the hours listening over the last 3 months, and now I am launching in a week. Thanks for all the detailed info and I must say, I couldn’t have understood the process as well as I do without your podcast. Thanks so much. When I get some feedback, good, bad or ugly, I’ll know what to do!
Thank you for the kind feedback, Jeffrey! I hope your launch goes well. Faithfully,
Daniel J. Lewis
Grow your podcast from average to amazing! http://PodcastMasterClass.com
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Need #9 addressed further as you didn’t state within the audio.. Have someone with a personal vendetta against me. How can I request a review be removed from iTunes/apple podcasts? What are the steps to do so?
Man, that sounds rough, Jason.
I suggest loading your podcast in iTunes (yes, the old app for computers because you can’t do this with Apple Podcasts), finding the review, and clicking on “Report a concern” for that review. You could also reach out to family and friends to ask they do the same thing. You probably shouldn’t publicly ask for the help, lest that person see it and retaliate in some way.