How to Respond Effectively
Mar 19, 2010
By Sara Brown
If I’ve learned anything working in media, it’s don’t get in the middle of a word fight. It’s better to not speak than to be so overwhelmed with your emotions that people stop listening to you. With the prevalence of media attacks on agriculture, producers are often hesitant to speak out against activists. So how do you say what you really want to say?
This past week, www.HumaneWatch.org, published a blog asking if Mary Kay was sponsoring a Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) event in Houston, Texas. After reading their post, going to the event Web site, and seeing their logo on the event page, I was undoubtedly upset. For almost seven years I’ve been independent Mary Kay consultant—but at that moment, sitting at the computer, I was a farmer. I was ready to give up the products I use and the income I receive from my business because of their support of HSUS.
So what did I do? I didn’t immediately go to my neighbor to bash the company, or call their customer service number irate because of what I had seen and heard. Instead, I waited until the anger passed, the emotions calmed and I wrote out my concerns. I read it once, twice, and five times more to make sure it was factual, clear and polite. I emailed the letter to the Mary Kay customer service department.
Then, I went to Facebook, where already concerns of the issue had surfaced, including many farmers and ranchers who use and/or sell the products. I added my concerns to the list and waited for a response from the company. An hour or two later, I received an e-mail response from Mary Kay, Inc., with the official statement that the company had no connection to the event, but that the site was improperly using the company’s Web site logo for a personal contribution by an independent beauty consultant.
Here are few lessons I learned through this process:
- Take time to put aside your emotions and get to the real message you want to convey.
- Take a moment and write out what you want to say. Organize your thoughts and put your points in order of importance. Be short—no one wants to read five pages of grievances.
- Be polite—it’s more effective.
- Use your consumer power and personal network to prove your sincerity. Explain why you will no longer purchase the product or service, and that you will encourage others to do the same.
- If the result of your actions is positive (company responds to your concerns), say thank you. It’s professional courtesy.
After the corporate response from Mary Kay, I went back to Facebook, and wrote a thank you on their wall for supporting agriculture and not the HSUS event. It wasn’t long before HSUS proponents commented on my post with glaring inaccuracies about agriculture and the HSUS organization. But it wasn’t only my post—the same few people commented on every thank you post there was trying to “buy back” any support of HSUS they could. Then, they became the “radicals.”
Before your blood pressure influences you to hit the reply button, in any similar situation, go through the list above again. Respond carefully to direct attacks—your credibility and your message are on the line.
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