Avoiding & Addressing Criticism

February 8, 2007 by

Poor Phil. I can’t help but feel for his predicament (an anti-semitic church ad), and it made me wonder what can be learned from it (i.e., I feel somewhat guilty for giving his ad ‘worst blunder of the year’ status and want to offer something a little more positive).

Get Feedback
One reason bad marketing happens is the ol’ “it seemed like a good idea at the time” excuse. In the heat of the moment it seemed smart and you run with it, only to see that it wasn’t the best plan.

One way to overcome that problem is with the wisdom of others. When it comes to marketing one free and easy way to tap into the wisdom of others is the Church Marketing Lab. Post your marketing efforts and get feedback.

Something tells me the fine folks in the Lab would have caught this one.

Prepare for Negative Reactions
Phil’s ability to land himself in the news seems like a potential problem for his church. On one hand publicity is publicity, but what about bad publicity? Is it good enough to know that your intentions are pure, and let God sort it out? I don’t think so.

If you’re in a position where you’re going to be attacked, you need to play some defense. Posting Phil’s apology on the church’s web site is a good first step. A better step is to post that apology on the church’s homepage so it’s easy to find (no, linking to the generic “pastor’s monthly newsletter” doesn’t count). Start a blog so you can share your perspective with authenticity and grace (the only way to combat the kind of attacks that compare you to the Taliban). The cycle of the news media moves too quickly for a monthly newsletter which will be buried when potential visitors come a knocking. Would you rather have them find only your critics’ words?

Should We Care About Image?
Part of me struggles with this because I wonder if we should even care about negative reactions (and here I’m talking more about Phil’s anti-gay rights work than his poorly worded sermon title). If the church stands up and proclaims the truth should we care about a few hecklers? Should we care if our image is taking a thrashing?

I think we have to care.

Our image certainly isn’t everything in life. But how we’re perceived has an impact on how our message is received. God has more to do with that than we do (and can overcome any image, no matter how poor), but we’re still expected to try. It doesn’t mean compromising the message, but it needs to be considered. There’s a fine balance.

Jesus had an image. He was perceived in certain ways. Sometimes he cared about that (like when he told people not to tell anyone about his miracles) and sometimes he didn’t (like when he flipped tables in the temple). I don’t know how that balance works, but I think it needs to be there.

I don’t have an answer, but I think we’d be remiss not to care about our image in some way. Image isn’t everything (sorry Sprite), but it is something. It has an impact on whether or not someone will walk through the church door and hear about Jesus, so we must care.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

Comments are closed.

Public Relations