Many people, many businesses, are naturally extremely nervous of criticism. The idea that someone, anyone, might have anything less than complimentary to say about them strikes fear into their heart. The very notion that there are cruel people out there who’d try to undermine all the belief, the emotional investment, the taste and decency of your organisation with barbs and bad vibes can often play an important and often unhelpful role in determining how organisations go about presenting themselves, their copywriting and marketing.

A whiter shade of pale

Their blogs, their social media and their web copy content, in an effort to not incite criticism, will often attempt to present a general message, a magnolia wash of platitudes designed to avoid offence.

By failing to identify and address a clearly defined audience this blanket ‘catch all’ approach to online marketing is also guaranteed to offer a far less effective ROI than a campaign based on addressing a clearly understood audience with the type ofcontent and communication they can easily engage with. Define your audience – aim and fire. Be prepared to ruffle feathers and to take a stance in the process. “Polarize People”, says Guy Kawasaki. Unless you want you and your marketing to dissolve into the ether, he’s right.

The critics won’t be placated

Too often companies live in fear of inciting a negative reaction. One bad review or a couple of negative comments out of a hundred and which one will carry the most weight? What will you naturally focus on? The bad news of course. Just because it’s human nature to zone in on the negatives doesn’t mean that we should let the fear of  misunderstanding carry too much influence.

Seth Godin says: “The critics are never going to be happy with you, that’s why they’re critics. You might bore them by doing what they say… but that won’t turn them into fans, it will merely encourage them to go criticize someone else. It doesn’t matter what Groucho or Elvis or Britney or any other one-name performer does or did… the critics won’t be placated. Changing your act to make them happy is a fool’s game.”

Who shares wins

Turn your back on these lost causes. Trying to please the wrong people will only tie you in knots. From the outset focus attention on those who you can genuinely please. Then focus again. Do your homework, define your best customers and then go after them with a passion. Hone your messages, laser guide your proposition then over deliver. Good enough isn’t good enough.  Give them exceptional. Exceed expectations and share a piece of you. Your story, your voice. Amaze, entertain and engage your advocates. After all – they are the ones who matter.

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