Handling the Haters

Businesspeople Playing Tug of WarHaters gon’ hate. That’s what they do. And in our industry, we’re going to see the haters popping up all over the interwebs. Chances are, unless you’re flacking for fuzzy baby lambs, someone out there is hatin’ on your client, your client’s product, or your company. (And even baby lambs may have made enemies; you never really know.) So what do you do with the haters, the negative comments, the angry bloggers, the furious tweeters, the disappointed Yelpers, the flaming Facebooker?

You could ignore them. Or you could do your job and handle the hate.

To be clear: I am not suggesting you should acknowledge every whackjob and crackpot on the internet. Some people are just fly-off-the-handle crazy, and there’s no dealing with them. What’s the difference between those people and legit haters? Haters have a reason to hate. They’re real consumers that have been let down. And that’s where you have work to do.

Hey, do you like lists? Well, here’s one coming atcha!

The Complete(ish) Step-by-Step List of Instructions on How to Handle the Haters

Step 1. Reach out. Send an e-mail, tweet to ask for a follow so you can DM, try to communicate in some way. Private is best, but public is okay too. You know why? Because you’re not going to say anything the world shouldn’t know. This step is important because it’s proactive and shows that the hater in question isn’t shouting into a void. If they have a legitimate issue, then they want someone to hear them. You’re the person that’s hearing them.

Step 2. Acknowledge the issue.
It’s not enough to listen. You have to actually understand the problem, even if you don’t see eye-to-eye with the complainer. Say something like, “Hi, I see you’ve been having problems with X. Believe me, I understand. I would be frustrated too if Y happened to me.” This isn’t lip service. You have to mean it. You have to put yourself in this person’s shoes for one second and get it.

Step 3. Don’t ask for anything. Just offer to help. You know when you’re standing in the post office and everything that’s happening is making it more and more difficult to mail your package? And people keep telling you to fill out more forms and answer more questions and generally waste more time? Yeah. You can’t ask an angry hater to do anything. Don’t say, “If you would just read this press release, I think you’d understand it better.” That’s work. Angry people don’t want to do more work. What you should say is, “I want to help you/I can send you this sample or whatever to try instead/Please let me offer Z.” Sound like customer service? It is. And just like customer service, don’t offer to help if there’s actually nothing you can do. If your client or product is really the problem, that’s something that should be reported. It’s not something to put a Band-Aid on. If you do this step correctly, you cannot make the situation worse, only better.

Step 4. Don’t be upset when they reject your offer. Chances are they will. They’re frustrated and hatin’ and they just wanted to vent a little on the internet. (This universal law is also called Haters Gotta Hate.) But that’s not the point. The point is you tried. And that one time, just that one time you turn someone from a hater to a fan is going to be totally worth it, because that’s a fan for life.

Handling haters is not easy, but it’s necessary. Tread lightly with a helpful heart, though, and you can’t do wrong.

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