When to Defend Yourself and When to Walk Away

When to Defend Yourself and When to Walk Away

One of the biggest questions most businesses have about social media is what you should do when someone posts something negative about you.

This could be a tweet, a Facebook status update, a mention in a LinkedIn group, a blog post, a video response to one of your YouTube videos – basically, anywhere where there’s a chance to post something, there’s the possibility of a negative mention.

So the question is – when do you respond, and when do you walk away? And can responding – even to something you feel you need to – cause more (potential) damage than not responding?

Sticks and Stones

It’s a simple fact of life – no-one is going to like everything you do. Even your most fanatical evangelists will get pissed off at something you do or say. There’s an old saying that if you don’t upset at least one person, you’re not doing it right (whatever “it” might be).

So when a negative comment is made about you, you then have a decision to make – do you respond, or ignore (based on relevance and approach of the negativity)? And if you do respond, what tone do you take?

It’s not an easy call – just ask Nestle’s PR team that was running their Facebook wall a little while back. By ignoring, you could be perceived as not caring, or taking criticism seriously enough.

Then again, by responding defensively, you could be seen in an even worse light by those that see your response. And if even the “experts” get it “wrong”, then it just goes to show how difficult it can be.

Criticizing Criticism – Adding to the Fire?

Take Jay Baer. Jay’s a guy I respect immensely, and is one of the smarter folks on the social media circuit. Jay’s just released his first book The Now Revolution (co-authored with Amber Naslund).

As part of the promotional outreach, Jay and Amber gave away a number of books to bloggers to review. Many have been positive, but one that popped up on my radar was the review posted by Jay Dolan over at The Anti-Social Media. Jay’s blog was named as one of the Top 10 Social Media Blogs of 2011, and has a very irreverent look at social media.

Wonder bloggers by Jay DolanJay’s review, entitled 8 Reasons You Don’t Need to Read The Now Revolution, was a mix of what he liked about the book and – as the title suggests – eight reasons he wasn’t a fan.

These included comparing the book to an overlong blog post collection; bad grammar; and questionable images for reference points. It’s partly satire and partly a serious overview of what Jay sees wrong with the book, in typical Jay Dolan fashion.

Both Jay Baer and Amber responded to Jay Dolan’s criticism via the post’s comments, but in different ways, and this is where it gets a little interesting for anyone wondering how those that consult on social media respond when criticized.

While Amber offers to discuss in more detail by email, Jay chooses to respond in the comments. Here are a couple of quotes below:

“On the grammar and writing side, I’ll only say that the praise for that component of the book has been universal, except here. You may be a particularly exacting judge of written communication, and evidently we’ve fallen short of your benchmark.

Given that there were parts of the book that you liked, and given that indeed the book is not intended for “social media people” but rather for business people, it seems a bit unfair to slap a “8 reasons you don’t need to read the now revolution” headline on this post. But, if you want to accentuate the negative to generate clicks, that’s a choice YOU made.”

As I say at the beginning of the post, I like and respect Jay Baer – but I wonder if the responses above were the best way to respond to the review?

Defense or Defensive?

As a few people in the comments of the post have picked up, Jay’s comment comes across as defensive overall (although he does temper that with points on where he agrees with the post). From the comments section:

  • Morgan: “…defending your work is like saying I made a mistake, now I must explain myself. His work will either speak for itself or it won’t.
  • Grayson: “If you have so many great reviews, why are you so concerned about one negative one? It is an opinion and there are many people who will read your book just to see if they agree. They will then decide for themselves.”
  • Bob LeDrew: “You guys had 224 pages to make your arguments. I don’t know that you need to make two separate replies to Jay D’s 1200 words of review. Let the book stand or fall on its merits and on the readers’ responses, sez me.”
  • Dean: “Is there a Chapter in the book on “when” to respond to a negative review from a blogger so as not to make a mountain out of a molehill? Seems you’ve just unnecessarily started a more visible spitting match and elevated his stature by lowering yours.”

Perhaps the reason a few of the comments have questioned Jay’s response is that if social media has taught us nothing else, the “wrong” response can soon get out of control.

I can understand Jay’s protection of his baby (I did the same thing a couple of years back with 12for12k), but the perceived defensiveness of his comment has perhaps put him in a less than flattering light. Which is the opposite of what Jay is, from what I’ve seen from my interactions with him.

Maybe Jay was having a bad day. I’ve had Jay respond to some questions on this blog and he’s always been personable (even when I’ve been a bit playful). The problem is, bad days can have an impact on a person or brand if it’s shared in public.

Feedback is a natural part of having something for public consumption. We all get it; we all deal with it differently on any given day. It’s not always easy to hold your tongue when something you care so deeply about is questioned.

Like I say, Jay’s a good guy, and maybe this was just a bad day reaction. But sometimes you need to just walk away when the question of defending yourself arises.

For businesses, it’s a hard line to manage. For consultants offering advice on how to walk that line, it’s probably even more important to make sure your line is how you’d advise clients.

What line would you have taken?

image: Mubina H
image: Jay Dolan

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  1. says

    An eye opener to say the least mate.

    I have done this a few times throughout my career, but it’s part of growing.

    The thing is, we all may understand the “rules” of defending yourself, but when your put in a situation like Jay B (First book) your instinct is to protect your baby (so to speak) before thinking it through.

    I have a lot of respect for Jay B, but I think he may have went a little over board on this one, but we’ve all done it.

    Great post by Jay Dolan too! :)


    Troy Claus

    • says

      Hey there mate,

      It’s not an easy decision, that’s for sure, and like I say maybe Jay was having a bad day. Or maybe that was exactly the response he would have used every time – I don’t know.

      But yeah, not easy, though important to use the action you really want to.

  2. Deb Bruser ( JoyFull_deb) says

    Gosh…I probably would have been a bit protective of “my baby,” too. I don’t think I would have walked away, perhaps,my response would have a different tone, though. However, that being said, I’m no Jay B. !! He did what he thought was right , and I haven’t walked in his shoes getting his first book to print. (whew…what a job & a labor of love).
    Here’s my other thought. I don’t know why Jay D. chose to title his post, “Eight reasons You don’t need to read the Now Revolution!” Well, I can think of plenty, however, is leading off with a slam in the face to Jay & Amber.
    As creative folks, we have to learn to develop a thick skin so that narly (sp?) comments don’t put us in a tailspin. (HA! …I should listen/learn from what I just wrote!)
    One last thingy…how many folks are going to read Jay’s review and NOT buy the book??? I think there will be many more who will/have/are going to buy it!!

    • says

      See, that’s the thing Deb – in the comments on Jay’s post, quite a few folks have mentioned that they’re interested in the book because of the review, to see if they agree.

      So I guess it can work both ways. As for the title, only Jay can answer that, but is it really that different from having a title that is clearly pro-product? A really “gushy” title might put people off, by thinking there’s no need to read “yet another same old same old review.”

      And I expect to see an avatar next time, miss. 😉

  3. says

    One of the authors should have done the following:

    1. Thanked Jay for taking the time to read and review their book.
    2. Thanked him for being honest.
    3. Acknowledged that they heard what he was saying.

    They could/should have even taken it a final step and offered to consider his constructive criticism, acknowledging that he may well be correct.

    • says

      Hi Mary,

      To be fair, Amber did say this in her reponse:

      “In any case, Jay, I appreciate your candor, and the pointed feedback.”

      But yeah, perhaps considering the points and saying, “We’ll see if there’s anything there that we could maybe do differently the next time” might have had a different feel.

      Thanks, Mary.

    • says

      Thank you!

      Funny how PR 101 still comes in handy in the social media age.

      I, too, like and respect Jay Baer and his work. Unfortunately, that response provided two more reasons not to read the book.

      1) It’s at least disingenuous, if not untruthful, to assert that the book was not intended for “social media people.” Then why did he free review copies elite social media people who write primarily of other social media people? If it’s meant for businesses, have business leaders and entrepreneurs review it.

      OF COURSE it was written with at least an eye toward the social media echo chamber.

      2) The response is pulling focus from the positive reviews and shining a spotlight on the points made in the negative one. If an author of a book about social media marketing is making rookie mistakes in publicity, why buy the book? “Social media people” are likely to overlook the flub because Baer has a reserve of credibility and good will. But would a general business reader do the same?

      • says

        They’re good questions, Jay (I’m getting confused with all the Jay’s in this post and thread!) :)

        I think it’s something that either authors or publishers (if not both together) need to start thinking more of when sending books out for review.

        Is it really of any value sending to people that are already heavily ensconced in the space? Or should they be sent to bloggers in the real target audience niche?

        Something to think about for sure.

        Cheers, sir.

  4. says

    Oh my, another Internet war. I’d better go find my bullet and put it in my pistol! :)

    I listened to Mitch Joel’s podcast interviewing Jay and Amber. Have to admit that because of that, I’m a bit prejudiced in favor of them, despite the fact that I haven’t read the book and don’t intend to. Not that it’s a bad book, but I’m the wrong audience.

    Danny, you’re exploring something here that I’ve been trying to piece together for a long time. I’m convinced that the best way to respond to violent disagreement is to say absolutely nothing.

    Or here’s something I’ve been experimenting with that’s even cooler. Instead of defending yourself, respond to the comment with something simple like “lol.” Or if they’re using Disqus, like the comment.

    Let them know that they’re amusing you.

    If people disagree with you about something, bitching with them in comments is going to do nothing but get everybody’s wheels stuck knee deep in crap. From my experience, it invariably happens.

    But by giving angry people a friendly poke in the belly button, you humor them up -and that does orders of magnitude more in terms of winning them over.

    Oh, did I mention this is EXTREMELY hard to do? That’s why so few do it.

  5. says

    Good post or article or blog or what are we supposed to call it? Pun intended! :) Sure there are writing rules, netiquette etc. etc. Attempting to have it all ‘right’ when writing or verbally speaking is never going to happen, for anyone, period. We are human, we each have flaws and at times may not meet a particular standard. I for one think there are far too many attacks, if you will, via social media, and many over the spin of a word, a simple mistake or perhaps a quote taken out of context.

    That being said- should we defend ourselves? I agree with some of others comments, your message and content speak for itself. Perhaps going a bit further, your image, branding and public persona should speak for itself. If you are truly living out your authenticity most people will not remember the occasional error. An authentic person knows their purpose and identity. Perhaps then they should not find it necessary to defend themselves.

    Let your message be heard, clearly, through how you speak, live and act.

    • says

      Interesting points as always, Angela.

      I wonder what authors did 50 years ago, when there was no Internet and reviews came out in print. Would they take the time to write to the reviewer, or leave it to an agent? Or just leave it completely? Perhaps they weren’t even aware of the review?

      Having bloggers review is an interesting addition to promotion of a product or service. It doesn’t matter the “size” of the blogger – Google and knowledge of SEO can level the playing fields immensely.

      And I’m not sure what it is – article, post? :)

  6. Jenifer Olson says

    Good post, Danny.

    Unfortunately, one of the very real consequences of asking someone to review your work online or otherwise is that not everyone is going to be a fan. And you know what? That’s OK. If nothing else, it shows you solicited unbiased reviews.

    I think what’s important to remember is that when we respond to someone on the Internet, we are also talking to all those other people out there who are listening in on the conversation. If the commenter is a jerk, your audience will come to that conclusion all on their own. In fact, IMHO, the more polite you are and the more interested you appear in hearing this person’s viewpoint, the better!

    I agree with Mary’s approach above – say thank you, we hear what you’re saying, we’re sorry you felt the book didn’t deliver and we will definitely consider your input going forward. In fact, (as Amber responded), let’s continue the conversation – we’re interested in learning more about any ideas and suggestions you have that can add value.

    And really mean it.

    Interestingly, I read something recently by reputation expert Peter Sandman that seems to fit here. He maintains a good reputation and a bad reputation are completely independent variables. Ten great reviews won’t negate one bad review. It doesn’t work that way. The negative review (how much you’re hated) can actually be more important than the positive review (how much you’re loved). According to Sandman (and I tend to agree), it’s important to listen to the negative, respond appropriately and offer to do what you can to address the other person’s concerns, if only to make their opinion less negative.

    Food for thought…

    • says

      Hey there Jennifer,

      Completely agree on the “visible to everyone” – the amplification of conversations can be far wider than just the original comments. I know of one Facebook group where the post and response is being dissected, and a couple of email exchanges too. How many knock-on conversations will happen elsewhere from these ones?

      I’m also with Peter Sandman’s viewpoint. Positivity rarely highlights flaws, perceived or real – but negativity (in all its guises) can make you look at things you might have missed otherwise. And if that benefits you in the long run…

      Cheers, Jenifer!

  7. says

    Hey Danny, interesting post. I think this also taps into the idea that every online conversation has three sides: Mine, yours, and the side of everyone that’s watching our exchange.

    I actually had a friend email me the post you referenced wanting to know if Amber and Jay handled the criticism appropriately. I’ll tell you what I told my friend, that Amber was courteous, but really didn’t say much other than let’s take it to email. I pretty much agree with what you say about Jay’s tone, he did sound a bit defensive and angry.

    However…we need to consider the tone of the blogger writing the review. This was the first time I had ever read Jay’s blog, but it struck me that the review was over the top in being snarky and possibly even mean-spirited. My guess is that Jay was doing this on purpose in an effort to get a response from Amber and Jay. But again, I don’t know this person, so can only assume as to their motives.

    So given the tone of Jay’s post, I am a bit more willing to give Jay and Amber a bit of a pass on how they responded. Now if Jay had written a review of the book without the inflammatory language and Jay had still responded in kind, then I think that HE would have been a bit over the top.

    So in short, I think it’s important to consider how Amber and Jay responded, but we can’t divorce their response from the tone in which the review was written. Because I believe the tone of the review did influence the tone of Jay’s response. And I can’t say that I wouldn’t have responded in the same way given the circumstances.

    • says

      Hi Mack,

      I agree, the review was “snarky” – but then, that’s Jay Dolan’s complete style on every post. From the sidebar mini-bio:

      “Jay Dolan writes The Anti-Social Media, which is the best social media satire on the internet. Ever.”

      So right away the tone of the blog is set out as very tongue-in-cheek and not your usual run-of-the-mill social media blog. Additionally, the very name The Anti-Social Media should be a good pointer for what the discussion on Jay’s posts are going to be like.

      If you’re going to offer up a book for review on a site that sets its stall out on how it approaches things, I think you have to let that site do what it does and not be “surprised” by the result.

      Perhaps understanding the blog and its audience better would have made the response either unnecessary completely, or even a joke at the review’s expense.

      Just a thought.

      • says

        Oh I agree completely with the idea of expecting an honest review if you give away the book. Totally with you there, Danny.

        But I don’t think a disclaimer on a sidebar excuses the tone of the post. Good manners are still important, anbd I don’t think we are being completely fair if we dismiss Jay’s ‘snarky’ tone, and then want to completely dissect how Amber and Jay reacted to it. The tone of Jay’s post appeared to be intentionally inflammatory, and my guess is that he was attempting to spark a reply by positioning the post as he did.

        Or to position this question another way, if Amber and Jay had just left ONE very short and courteous response to Jay’s post, would we have said that was the appropriate response, or would we have said that they should have been more engaging?

        • says

          Hi Mack,

          I don’t think it’s dismissing the tone as much as it is knowing that it is the tone.

          For me, it’s similar to doing an interview with Jon Stewart or Larry Winget – you know what could happen, so you either accept that and see what transpires, or you don’t get interviewed.

          Even if Jay D. was intentionally looking to spark a reply, that doesn’t mean you have to reply. Two comments stand out for me in the comments thread:

          Jay Dolan: My intention with this review was to point out the flaws that I think kept The Now Revolution from being even better that what it already is. Is the style overly negative? Yes, but that’s how I role on The Anti-Social Media.

          Dean: I mean Jay’s got his audience but he ain’t Chris Brogan.

          Often we advise clients and businesses that some responses aren’t warranted. This may have been the case here. I’d like to think that the folks that read The Anti Social Media wouldn’t think less of Jay or Amber for not “engaging” to the fullest – I’m guessing the reaction in the comments wouldn’t have been anywhere near as negative as they are had both gone the same route as Amber did.

          But, again, everyone’s different and has different approaches. Which is what makes all this daily interaction, good and bad, so fascinating.

    • says

      Danny, I love that your post addresses one of the biggest fears in Social Media.

      My simple recommendation to most is “how you respond to negative post speaks VOLUMES”.

      Jay’s lesson is a lesson to us all.

    • Deb Bruser ( JoyFull_deb) says

      I’m in total agreement with you, Mack. You said what I was trying to say in my response. Thanks!!

  8. says

    Hey Danny,

    The Anti-Social Media blog has an objective… To be contrarian.

    I think had this been me, I might have focused on the positive comments in the review and thanked him for articulating his view. These types of situations are tricky of course…

    • says

      Hey there Michael,

      Great point. Acknowledges the review and doesn’t open up a potential follow-up like the one that some comments have resulted in.

      Like you say, it is tricky. I know when I’ve been “challenged” on here, I’ve often wanted to jump in. But I tend to find that ignoring usually results in moving on to the next topic as opposed to continuous dissecting.

      Cheers for your thoughts, sir.

  9. says

    Sometimes, your stuff isn’t perfect. Maybe it needed more work. Maybe the editor missed a typo. Maybe your argument makes no sense. Maybe someone just didn’t like your stuff because they just weren’t into it. Who knows? You can’t make everyone happy. Lots of people hated Avatar and Titanic. Critics kill books, plays, movies, restaurants, songs and all forms of publishing all the time.

    Fact: As soon as you get published, some critics are going to crucify you. It’s just how it is. Publishing isn’t blogging. It’s a cage fight.

    There are 3 ways to deal with negative reviews:

    1. Politely defend if the review is unfair, incorrect or malicious, and if you really feel it’s necessary to respond. (It probably isn’t.)

    2. Ignore or shrug it off if the review is fair, correct and honest. Thank the person for the feedback, even. If the feedback is valid, it is valuable. It might not have been what you wanted to hear, but you still needed to hear it. Process, digest, learn, move on.

    3. Be defensive and make a scene. Particularly when you want to prove to the world that you aren’t ready to publish your work and be an adult about it. For bonus points, argue why you are right and they are wrong. List the reasons why the review is unfair. Let the back and forth degenerate until someone’s cat gets threatened with chemical circumcision. That always entertains the crowd.

    Optional: Killing the last of that bottle of gin all by yourself and crying yourself to sleep.

    Do you know what is even more pathetic than an author acting like a drama queen when their book gets reviewed poorly?

    Nope, me neither.


  10. says

    First of all, for a book or movie, a negative review is no big deal, as has been pointed out, it will gets attention and press that it might not have. It’s interesting I’ve read several different things that touch on issues you bring up here. Not responding or not paying attention to the “conversation” is a mistake. Responding in a way that acknowledges the concerns of the “customer” can be good. Getting our panties all up in a wad when someone doesn’t like us is counter-productive.

    • says

      I always think of the Star Wars prequels. Critics and fans of the original Star Wars trilogy hated them, but a new set of fans lapped them up.

      There will always – always – be someone that isn’t part of your audience that doesn’t like what you do. If they’re not your audience, is it worth getting involved, as you say?

      Cheers, Pat.

  11. says

    I’m a musician and still feel totally stung when we get a bad album review, even if it comes after several great ones. I am often tempted to find the reviewers on Facebook and give them an earful, but resist the temptation. It’s just an opinion, not a fact.

  12. says

    Love all the great comments here.

    I think the hard part here is the goal. They gave away books to influential bloggers who all stake their claim that they are objective. So you have to expect honesty even if it hurts. Was his expectation to have them all write glowing reviews?

    This is no different than the Sports Star or Celebrity seeing negative press every single day and tweets attacking them you have to have a thick skin or ignore.

    I would of taken Amber’s route myself. We have what 350mil people between US and Canada? If 1000 see a snarky review will it matter? What matters most is the reader not the reviewer.

    But to the premise of your post Danny depends on the business. Think of all those restaurants that are on Yelp! who had an off night in the kitchen or the dining room staff getting shredded by the public. That stays! Jay D’s review will fade away. But now I am looking for a Japanese restaurant and that one star body slam from 2 years ago is staring me in the face!

    • says

      That’s a good point, and one that seems to be popping up in other comments, Howie – were the right bloggers targeted for the promo?

      Should the bloggers have been small business owners, or C-level execs who blog? Perhaps that’s where future blog outreach programs need to look, as opposed to the normal social media first choices? Like you say, if it’s not the audience, why get them to blog in the first place?

      And speaking of Yelp, look out for a guest post from Joe Hackman on Yelp later this week. :)

  13. says

    Danny – With brands an off day can become an off-putting nightmare as was the case with Nestle. With authors, especially ones in this space, they are new to responding to something that is them. Sure they have represented brands, but it was not a full-blown emotional investment like the book is.

    I would say that this may be an off-day as I haven’t seen something like this from Jay before.

    There is always a potential positive takeaway from a negative review. I have to cite Jim Sterne for doing an awesome job of this when I read his book on SM measurement and was left less than thrilled and didn’t give a positive review. He left a note that he was sorry to have let me down and that the check was in the mail. Low and behold he sent $20 to my office. The whole thing turned into a charitable exchange where we both gave $ to a charity. But at the end of the day, I have much more respect for him handling himself in that manner.

    He didn’t have to get snarky (as he noted he wanted to in a newsletter) but realized that when gauging an audience, his book was not for everyone.

    Unfortunately for Jay and Amber, they choose a blogger that was in the SM space and not in their audience “given that indeed the book is not intended for “social media people” but rather for business people.” It could also be argued that they opened up for potentially a negative or snark assed review.

    • says

      Agreed, Jeff (and carrying on from Howie’s comment above). Maybe publishers will stop looking for influencers and go more for influential instead?

      And I LOVE Jim’s approach – now THAT would make me a fan for life. :)

  14. says

    Danny this is always an easier position to be the detached observer than to be in the middle of the fire.

    This conversation is very much needed and I think that it deserves everyone to be open, honest and accountable.

    In a blog it is a much different story as you have the ability to see the whole story-post or comment all in once place VS twitter where the conversation is stretched out across the yard so to speak like leaves int he fall.

    Having been the recent receiver of an online attack I know the interesting balance between what some would say is “having a honest conversation” to being pushed intentionally and you know no matter what you say their intention is not to have any kind of meaningful discussion.

    This is bringing about an opportunity, actually more than one by us talking about these issues- as our clients need to know how to handle situations like Jay’s and mine so they are prepared before they occur.

    My last comment for readers consideration on this situation is, “do you give consideration to the lifetime of communication (what you have witnessed over time from the individuals) and what type of equity of trust it holds for you VS a one time situation that is a learning experience for everyone involved?”

    • says

      Agreed, Michele, and I think that’s why people that know Jay B. are surprised by the response on the post. Normally Jay’s pretty amicable around criticism, so perhaps a bad day?

  15. says

    Great one Danny, defensive always makes you look like spoiled brat, even if you are right.
    I guess arguing or defending a point of view really depends on what is at stake. I don’t agree that we should ignore criticism as long as it is educated and brings something to the discussion.
    Ignoring the low blows, personal insults and attention seekers is usually the best route. They are looking to provoke a reaction and start a debate, don’t give them that pleasure.

    On the other side, building online ‘fights’ creates PR for the book (look at us talking about and you posting), so just like the WWF maybe some of these online arguments are let’s say ‘arranged’ beforehand?

    • says

      I’d be surprised if Jay Dolan would be up for any pre-arranged shenanigans, John, but interesting theory mate. :)

      Like you say, smiling and moving on is often more of a statement than reacting. And it sure as heck saves any recriminations afterward, like the comments on the original post have become.

  16. says

    Danny, this has been great, I love it when I get as much out of the comments as I do the article itself.

    Here’s the thing— I have a tough time hearing anyone give Jay B. a hard time for defending himself until he or she has been in that same position. It’s so easy for all of us to sit back and say that Jay handled it wrong, but frankly, why do people get so worked up when others defend themselves? I say good for Jay. Let the guy learn on his own if it’s a good or bad thing, but the minute we start saying authors shouldn’t be able to defend themselves (just because they wrote a book and ‘had their time’) is the minute we’ve all gone off the deep end.

    In other industries I’m involved with, I’ve been attacked and blasted and all that jazz online. There have been times when I’ve shut up and others when I’ve yelled back. That’s why I don’t judge Jay B. In fact, good for him for having the stones to say what was on his mind. After all, didn’t he say this on a blog??? Ya know, that place where all speech and all opinions are supposed to be a good thing?

    Just my thoughts, but I’ll never throw someone under the bus for words of self-defense.

    I say good for Jay D. for speaking his mind.

    And I say good for Jay B. for speaking his as well.

    Props to both of them.


    • says

      Hi Marcus,

      I think the reason people are looking at this example is that it’s a highly visible social media “expert”, if you like, as well as a published author with a book that explains how to manage reputations (and more) in that space.

      Is countering negativity with more negativity the advice that would normally be given to businesses? Or would it be to acknowledge, smile (even forcedly) and then move on? After all, the more you feed a flame…

      I’m with you on folks being able to defend their work (heck, I’ve been in that position more than a few times now). But as the other author Amber showed, there are more ways to skin a critical cat.

      • says

        I would not direct a corporate client to respond with the same tonality I used in my response to the original post.

        But I am not a corporation. I am a dude with a book. One size doesn’t fit all situations.

  17. says

    So many thoughts came to me when reading this great post Danny,one being; “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”
    When we make ourselves visible there will always be folk that like to take a pop, for their own reasons of insecurity mainly. We are all of course, entitled to our own opinion and mostly people can spot the difference between spitefulness and constructive criticam. The latter is good to engage with, the former I still think you cant beat “thankyou for your kindness!”
    PS, I’ve given up trying to get gravatar to work so sadly you will never get to see my real smile:)

    • says

      The visibility angle is spot on, Jane. I’m not sure if Jay Dolan is insecure (he doesn’t appear to be, but I’m just gathering that from the consistency of his blog’s approach), but it’s certainly been interesting to watch the different approaches of everyone.

      And sorry about the avatar – hmmm, will have to see about that. :)

  18. says

    My husband (politician in a small city) always says “If you’re defending, you’re back peddling.” What he means by that is this: move forward, don’t get caught up in something you probably won’t win if it’s driven by emotion.

    And I always say that there are some people who won’t like you simply because of the way you breathe. If you are able, give yourself a few days to let simple solutions and answers come to you. Be transparent, be honest and be yourself. At the end of the you’ll know you did your best – but you may have learned a few things which will allow you to become even better.

    That’s what makes us successful – when we make it through a “situation” and are able to walk and work with our heads held high.

    • says

      Your husband sounds like one smart man, Imelda.

      We always try advise our clients to take the online equivalent of taking a deep breath and counting to ten. It can be tough (and sometimes you want to jump in on their behalf and let rip on someone) but it’s usually more than worth the pause.


  19. says

    Hi Danny
    Well set out and reasoned post on a difficult subject.

    It all looks very much like email wars which are now a regular part of business. The emails just keep going back and forth with argument and counter argument.

    Difference is, on the internet everyone can see what’s happening!

    I don’t get involved in email wars, I pick up the phone and sort it out.
    Is there an internet equivalent of picking up the phone?

  20. says

    Danny, as always great topic and great discussion in the comments section. I tend to agree with most of the folks here…walk away. Thank the reviewer for the candid, thoughtful review, but don’t amplify the review by rehashing it in your public comments. I’ve handled that sort of situation for clients before…Facebook pages can be nasty places for grievances. I always play to the strong suits and ignore the negative. If it’s REALLY necessary to respond, then I usually infuse some humor into the situation to lighten the overall mood/seriousness and remind the person delivering the scathing comment or less than flattering review that we’re really all in the playground together, let’s make the best of it.

    • says

      That’s the problem with the written word, Erica – sometimes even the most obvious humour can be missed (or misread).

      Like you say, though, if you can inject humour and walk away smiling, more power to you. :)

  21. says

    To be honest I don’t blame anybody who jumps to the defence of their product, be it a website, blog, book or plugin. Nobody has done it to me yet but I’d happily steam in and defend my baby from verbal assaults.

  22. says

    This is a very interesting subject that requires different actions depending on the circumstances. I think it is important that both Amber and Jay acknowledged the post because it reads like an attack instead of a critical yet constructive analysis. However, I agree that the tone of Jay’s response wasn’t the most professional, made clear in the fact that he received the brunt of the commenters’s counter-attack. Amber’s response, on the other hand, was perfect.

    I think it is best to discuss issues that may lead to crisis outside of social media. While the acknowledgement should be made in public to demonstrate to others that you are listening, the resolving discussions should be carried out in private, as this is when the most emotion is expressed and is therefore also the time when mistakes can occur. A really good guideline for online etiquette was made by Swift Communications, which I write about in my post: http://bit.ly/dEHUeL.

    One of its points says that “when disagreeing with others, keep it appropriate and polite. If you find yourself in a situation online that looks like it is becoming antagonistic, do not get overly defensive and do not disengage from the conversation abruptly.” Perhaps Jay could have taken this advice and offered to continue the conversation through other means.

    • says

      Hey there Alexandra,

      Great points all round, and like you say, Amber’s decision to offer to acknowledge and take it offline, so to speak, is clearly an approach that’s worked (as per the non-counter comments compared to those Jay received).

      Sure, if there’s a public disagreement then onlookers will still want to know it’s been resolved. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be resolved in that public space; merely the confirmation that it has.

      Email’s great for that private resolution. :)

  23. says

    Reading everyone’s thoughts on this particular subject, I was reminded of an experiment I conducted two years ago when I singled out six people at six organizations and wondered if they monitored their names and were inspired to read and/or respond.

    Fifty percent responded within the first 24 hours.

    That led me to write a follow-up article with the argument that those those who failed to respond received an F in monitoring their names.

    Heated comments from both articles led me to apologize, and Danny was one of the commenters back in 2009: http://ariherzog.com/why-i-and-pobody-else-is-nerfect/

    I wonder if Jay Dolan ever apologizes for creating fires. I also wonder if he needs to.

    • says

      Going by the consistent tone of Jay Dolan’s blog, Ari, I can’t see the need for an apology unless something is way out of line.

      But somehow I think Jay is clever enough to ensure that doesn’t happen… 😉

  24. says

    I can’t imagine how hard it is to always be “on” and positive when you encounter naysayers in this space if you’re someone like Jay and Amber who has a huge following (both supporters and detractors).

    Does that make it OK to lash out at people every so often? Definitely not. I’m not saying Jay did that, because that’s too extreme. I think he simply let emotion take over. He’s very invested in this project and his reaction proves that. As someone who all too often takes things way more personally than I should, I would also have a bruised ego if someone wrote a not-so-positive review of the book I just poured my heart and soul into. I’m sure he didn’t mean to come off as defensive, but it’s an easy line to cross.

    I do give both Jay and Amber credit for responding to all the book reviews, even the ones that aren’t glowing reviews. That shows dedication and appreciation to everyone who spent time reading the book.

    Jay may realize that he let his emotions take over in that comment. Or he may have zero apologies for how he responded. Every person is different, but I do think it’s very difficult to manage and respond to an overabundance of online conversations related to you and your product, so I give them major credit for their responsiveness.

    • says

      Hey there Nikki,

      For sure, the larger the potential audience, the larger the chance for feedback of both kinds. And being “always on” is far easier said than done.

      It’s interesting to see both authors choose different responses, and the follow-ups from these approaches. Like you say, everyone’s different and Jay (Baer) certainly doesn’t need to apologize.

      I’m just curious if it’d be the same response each time in hindsight?

      • says

        Good question. Perhaps not. That’s also the other hard part of always being in the limelight – making sure you’re consistent with everything you do, or you can bet someone will call you out. Kinda makes you prefer to live under a rock, doesn’t it? 😉

  25. says

    That made for a pretty interesting read, Danny.

    Temperance and moderation were the two words that immediately came to my mind when I read this. There’s a nice metaphor that Sean Covey uses in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens – the one of a soda can and a bottle of water. You shake up things a bit, and the soda can explodes – but the bottle of water just sits there and does nothing :)

    You’re right in pointing out that Jay (the author) was probably having a bad day – and that resulted in him getting defensive rather than accepting Jay’s (the reviewer) review with a pinch of salt. It’s even more important when we have a public face and a private face, that we all too often tend to combine and confuse in the world of social media.

    Would Jay have responded differently on a good day? Would Jay have responded differently if he had waited to cool off for a couple of days? I bet, he would have. And would have probably come off making a way positive impact on everyone.

    Reviews, feedbacks and criticisms are best taken with a pinch of salt. They really don’t make or break our worlds. And they’re definitely not about Win-Lose or Lose-Win. They’re all about Win-Win or No Deal, as Steven Covey would say.

    P.S.: Glad to be back, Danny!

    • says

      Sean Covey is excellent, mate, and great call on the Seven Habits – like you say, perfect for this example.

      It’s funny how even just taking an hour out to think about a response can make such a big difference, huh? Though perhaps Jay would have responded the same – as many have (rightly) said, it’s not easy seeing something you love questioned. Wonderful thing, hindsight.

      And great to see you back on these shores, mate – here’s to more shared conversations. :)

  26. says

    Ooh lala! My comment was quoted. :) Cheers for that!

    On the subject of your post, Jay Baer seems like a very good guy and I’m sure he was feeling very defensive after it was torn apart on The Anti Social Media blog. I’d be defensive too! Especially if it were something I worked extremely hard on.

    However, in this case, Jay Dolan was not the intended audience, so he tore it apart. If the book had been given to someone who knew absolutely nothing about social media, then I think the review might have gone over better.

    I agree that in this situation, it would have been best for him to say “thank you for the candid review, good luck with the contest and if you have any further feedback or questions, please do get in touch with me: “insert email or twitter or facebook here”.”

    Not every review or comment or anything else is going to be in favor of whatever it is that’s being reviewed. It’s impossible to please everyone.

    It’s cool, though, we all get a little heated when it comes to something we put a lot of heart and soul into. :)

    Thanks for the great post!

    • says

      Hey there Morgan,

      It makes me wonder about publishers, and if they have ideas about who book should be sent to? Like you say, sending to a business owner or executive blogger would have made much more sense than sending to someone who’s not the target audience and who lives in “the bubble”.

      Something for PR teams and book publishers to consider as blogs become a bigger part of the promotional landscape.

  27. says

    Wonderful discussion here Danny. Like Marcus I’ve enjoyed the comments as much as the original post. I agree with Erica, Martyn on using humor as a defense mechanism, but then this review and debate illustrates the ever-present catch: tone is subjective. Humor, snark, any work and criticism of said work, it’s all subjective. I think I’m hilarious, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Though you should, cause I am. Really, just ask me. 😉

    Mack’s point about the different audiences, particularly the 3rd party voices observing and then like you, taking the debate in other directions, that factors into thing. Per your comment about looking to Jay and Amber as experts, some would question a choice to not respond, wonder if they are even listening. I don’t but in this supposed transparent social world, others may question the using email tactic as hiding. None of the parties are operating behind closed doors, this is all out in the open; so when you shine a light on something, you may change it.

    Olivier does a nice job, mapping out how to deal with negative opinions, but I’m with you on killing that bottle (wine in my case) first ;-), then dealing with it while remembering it’s just that: an opinion.

    • says

      With regards the tone, Davina, it’s one of the reasons I love video chats and conferencing so much when it comes to non-physical meetings.

      You can insert any amount of emoticons you want, but nothing says humour like a face with a smile and a little twinkle in the eye. Maybe reviews and blog comments should be by video? 😉

  28. says

    Hey Danny, what a fantastic post. I’ve fallen short of commenting lately but I just needed on this one because my opinion on this subject is twofold. I believe there is constructive criticism and then there’s criticism. I remember when I wrote the guest post for you something happened I didn’t expect: someone actually slammed me in the comment section. It was the first time that ever happened to me and it taught me a big lesson.

    Being a person with a bit of a temper at times, all I wanted to do is know who the person is and tell him off. I held back at the time because it wasn’t the time or place but it bugged me immensely on the inside.

    Since then however, I’ve changed my opinion. I choose to not respond to comments that are unfounded. Neither do I respond if I feel like me writing a response at that moment in time would result in me being perceived as snappy. That’s why in this particular case, I prefer Amber’s approach. But of course there are also those posts that don’t even warrant a response.

    Sometimes we just have to be the bigger person. As hard as it may be. Different people. Different opinions.

    • says

      Ah yes, I recall that little incident well, Antonia – nice to see folks in the comments section take up the bat for you. :)

      I’m in the same boat as you – I usually just let the comments (or blog posts) slide, maybe jump in with a friendly thank you, and let the heat cool down.

      I’ve seen raging wars in the comments at times, but ignorance is a great settler. 😉

      • says

        “Ignorance is a great settler.” Would that were always true Danny. I’ve seen people not only with their own opinions but their own “facts” too. So those who agree w/ one point will recognize the ignorance and not bother. Others who are so sure they are “right” and ignorant of their ignorance.. well I need to be like Antonia, be a bigger person and rise above, get better at ignoring. Kinda like watching some of the “news.” FWIW.

  29. says


    I’ll admit, one of my biggest weaknesses/strengths is being comfortable with confrontation. I’ll gladly step up to defend my (insert noun) when it is being bad mouthed or put into danger. However, I worked at a bar in college, and I quickly learned the value of distinguishing between threats (guys hanging around looking for trouble) and loud-mouths (guys that talked big but wouldn’t dare throw a punch). The latter were easy to handle. Let them leave quietly and problem was solved.

    The same goes for business and life. Allow the argument or disagreement to fizzle by not adding fuel yourself. A few other comments echo my sentiment — acknowledge Jay’s points, thank him for the review, and perhaps propose to take his points into consideration with a future book.

    Then again, I was not in that unique position, so it’s easy to asses as an armchair quarterback with nothing on the line. I did write a post similar to this (in lesser magnitude) back in November regarding my response to a critic to our business. http://www.lifeasanexperiment.com/2011/01/05/illegitimi-non-carborundum/

    Thanks for a great discussion worthy post, Danny. Have a wonderful weekend!

    • says

      The bar analogy is a funny one, Jamey – it’s always the loudest who back it up the least, too. 😉

      Like you say, most things fizzle out through their own accord. Unless you add fuel, of course…

      Look forward to checking out your post, mate.

  30. says

    Danny, great analysis of how to respond. The one thing about social media that I’m starting to dislike is that we keep telling people to comment, post, engage, etc. and when they do at times others want to say, “Why are justifying…?”

    One of the biggest challenges with social media is we don’t know where bloggers, are coming from in terms of their background, experience and subject matter expertise. Sometimes you can get a huge following from being first to market, or being snarky. That always does not translate into having the background and real world experience to make definitive statements or opinions.

    • says

      The visibility factor is definitely something people need to consider, Brian. It doesn’t matter how “small” you are – Google can level everyone to the same audience, with just a little bit of SEO and the right social share at the right time.

      Interesting times indeed…

  31. says


    This is my first time here and I have to say, LOVIN’ it. This post was just what I needed to read as I have been monitoring a situation very similar to the one described above. I am not involved in the situation, but it was a situation over a very negative review of a product. Both owners replied to the bloggers post and just as above, one was gracious and one was fierce.

    Unfortunately, both owners got back lash from the other commentators. It almost felt as if it became a no win situation.

    I think you presented this argument very well. Glad NittyGriddy sent me this way.


    • says

      Hi there Lisa,

      Definitely interesting to see how two different voices respond to the same criticism, and how these comments are responded to themselves. Like you say, it can lead to a no-win situation, as opposed to stepping outside the heat and maybe diffusing it with humour or a quick, “Thank anyway” and walking away.

      I guess I better buy Ingrid a drink or something for pointing you this way – look forward to seeing you around more, hopefully. :)

  32. says

    Wow, I wish authors of a product I recently reviewed read this. All they did was threaten to sue and talk trash to me. Called me a liar but never tried to say what did I write that was a lie.

    You write a bad review about something you don’t think is good and they come down on you like crazy.

    I don’t think any serious company should react in a negative manner when it comes to costumer, no matter what it in question.

    • says

      Just read your post, and the comments that followed, Brankica – that Tammy really showed her company in a great light, huh? 😉

      For the record, I bought MMS too on the recommendations of others, and thought it was a waste. Oh well, live and learn.

  33. says

    Hey Danny,

    I have one word to how I handle anyone or anything negative that comes my way – DIPLOMACY!

    That’s just how I see it. If it’s constructive criticism – then I’m happy to hear it – maybe it will help me. If it’s not – then I try to breathe in and out before I unleash the friendly dragon lol.

    I learned that staying polite and remaining calm (as much as you can – although it’s incredibly hard)go a long way.

    I may be wrong – but that’s just my character. Not to say that I’ve never lost composure – but I do my best not to.

    I love this piece Danny. It’s a post that everyone should read!

    Cheers Bonsai Boy

    • says

      I think a lot of folks could learn from your approach, Ingrid.

      An example – the post that our mutual friend Brankica wrote about Market Me Suite. Was it a harsh post? Yes, but then that’s the point – why be kind when the product (in Brankica’s eyes) was crap?

      Harsh or not, when Tammy the Market Me Suite CEO got involved, her tone and response completely put me off MMS. So someone criticized your product – is that really an excuse to call that person sad?

      So, yeah, Tammy did MMS more harm than Brankica’s post ever could. If only she’d counted to ten, then replied.

      Ah well… 😉

  34. says

    Reading the comments here took more time than reading the post (article, content, piece) itself 😉 But, I enjoyed every minute of it. And, although I am not much about leaving negative comments, I always believe that we should bask in the praises and learn from the criticisms. I know this may be hard to do, especially if it concerns a brainchild of ours, but we have to always remember that we could not please everyone. So, if we read a critique or review that we do not like, then it is best if we walk away and say nothing at all. Then, come back later, when we have simmered down a bit, and say something like, “will keep your suggestions in mind next time”. :)

    • says

      I’m always reminded of the “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything” phrase, Wes. Thing is, though, sometimes the non-nice thing (if constructive) can lead to something even better down the line.

      Even negative remarks can have validity – something that a lot of folks miss.

      Cheers for dropping by, Wes, look forward to chatting more. :)

  35. says

    Hi Danny:

    We work with people defending their online reputation so can kind of give you our rule of thumb.

    If a comment or post or blatant attack is a matter of opinion, there is almost no way to win by “countering it”. As some other people here have stated, thanking them for their insight and moving on probably would have been the best bet.

    However, what is happening way too often right now is also getting made up reviews from absolutely false information. The bad news is that this kind of thing can be devastating. That is the kind of thing that has to be fought or else one competitor or “hater” can just destroy a business. As an example, just saw a case come in where someone set up 4,000 blogs going against a business. As you said above, it is crazy times out there.

    • says

      Hey there Chris,

      Thanks for sharing your insights, mate, appreciate it.

      I’d heard of anti-blogs being set up; but never to the extent of 4,000 of the buggers. Wow – guess someone really wants to ruin someone else’s business…

      Crazy, indeed.

  36. says

    It’s a good question, and an interesting tale. For the record, I wasn’t having a bad day, and if my comment on the original post came off as defensive, I make no apologies, as I was in fact defending the book.

    Clearly, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I felt the review was petty and unfair. Que sera.

    In terms of how we should have handled it, we have an entire section of the The Now Revolution devoted to the subject, and we followed our own playbook. You always respond, because it shows you’re listening and that you care. You don’t get dragged down into a multi-post back and forth, because you can never win.

    Which is why I didn’t respond to the the follow up comments on the original post, or here. I had my turn at bat, and I moved onward.

    • says

      Hi Jay,

      Thanks for dropping by, sir. Agreed, everyone is different (and like you say in your reply to my comment with Marcus earlier, there’s no one-size-fits-all).

      Just curious on your preference for the “open” version versus the closed gate one that Amber took? Obviously you’re both the authors that the post took “umbrage” with – is there a specific reason there were two different responses and approaches?

      Cheers, mate.

      • says

        It probably seems like Amber and I were playing good cop/bad cop in the comments, but we actually posted at the same time, and didn’t see each other’s comments until they were live.

        Amber handled it the way companies should handle it. Which is appropriate, because she works for a company and what she does online reflects upon her employer too.

        I’m not in that situation, so I can ramp up the pissiness quotient if necessary.

  37. says

    Hi Danny,

    I read this post last week but didn’t feel the need to add anything.

    But I came back today to add my two cents after I got snarked by another site. I did some Technical thing on my own site differently than they believe it should be done.

    They basically told all their readers that I didn’t know what I was doing, and even left a comment on my site a few days prior to inform me of their plans.

    OY, some people’s kids 😉

    I thought about simply letting it go, but I decided to leave them a comment once they had published, logically stating my reasons for doing it the way I did.

    But it was a tough decision.

    Whenever I can, I try to be gracious about things and keep the glass half full. I’m always open to debate an issue, but I also know that many are a waste of time.

    I finally decided the situation called for a simple and unemotional response, since my professional competence was openly being called into question before an audience of significant size.

    A strictly personal attack, I would have left alone. Attempts at defense is those situations can quickly deteriorate, so I believe they should be avoided if possible.

    And you know, I’m still asking myself if I should have simply ignored it, as I second-guess about which course of action demonstrates more “weakness,” or, greater character.

    Anyway, I’ll thanks for the session. I’ll get off your couch now :-)


    • says

      Hey there mate,

      Glad you came back and shared your example. I think I’d have done exactly the same in your shoes – often a reasoned and broken down response is exactly what’s needed.

      Like you say, often the more personal “attacks” are better left untouched (something I did last year when I had a whole Tumblr community come after me, hehe).

      Not easy, and I’m sure there’ll be more examples to come.

      Cheers as always, Rick.