Putting content you created out into the world can feel a little scary. It can feel a lot scary. Lots of times we hear from accountants who fear sharing blogs they’ve written, videos they’ve recorded, social posts they’ve crafted.
And most of the time when we get to the heart of it, it’s because they’re worried about other accountants reading it. What will they think? What will they say?
The fear is just that: a fear – but it’s an understandable one. We all want to be respected by our peers.
Every once in a while, you could receive a negative opinion or comment. If that happens, the fear moves from imagined to real and it knocks your confidence. It might come in the form of a social media comment, an unsolicited ‘helpful’ email or even in passing conversation. Sometimes it comes disguised as ‘constructive criticism’ when really it’s not constructive at all.
Feedback is a helpful and necessary means to improvement. But not everyone’s opinion matters when you’re creating content for a specific audience. So how do you identify what is a negative unhelpful comment, and what is genuine helpful feedback?
If we don’t learn how to separate the two, unhelpful negative comments will give more depth and body to the fear, which can stop you from sharing all your knowledge and wisdom with the people who really need it.
Your content isn’t for everyone. So not everyone’s opinion matters
Remember who you’re creating content for and what you want your content to do. Rule of thumb: if the person giving their opinion isn’t the kind of person who would say “thank you, this content really helped me do XYZ in my business” then their negative opinions and criticisms don’t matter either.
Your content is not for other accountants – In the same way this marketing tip is not for other creative agencies (although they’re welcome to learn from it if they wish), your content is not for other accountants. I’m writing this for you because we work exclusively with accountants. My sole purpose here is to help accountants. Who is it your sole purpose to help? Create content for them. Most other accountants will be minding their own business focusing on who they help – and if they do have something to say? Well, keep reading this tip, because we’ll be crossing that bridge very shortly.
Your content is not for the Institute of Chartered whatever – You work in a regulated industry, meaning sometimes there are things you need to be careful having a public opinion on. Totally fine, be cautious of what you share in that sense. However, if you focus on creating content around the questions and issues and problems that your clients face, you’ll find you have plenty you can share.
Your content is not for your friends and family – As much as we love them, our friends and family aren’t our ideal clients either. Plus, when it comes to reviewing our work, opinions from the people closest to us can go either way – they can be too harsh without anything constructive for improvement, or too loving and praising without anything constructive for improvement. Neither is particularly helpful. I do, of course, want to hear my eyes sparkle on video*, but it won’t help me get my message across better.
*Happy to hear it from my ideal clients too, though. Take note.
Your content is not for the average Joe Public – Unfortunately, there are a lot of keyboard warriors on the internet who delight in the fact they can give an opinion without kindness or consequence. If they’re not your ideal client, their opinion simply doesn’t matter. You’re not creating content for Bob who goes to your gym, or that friend of a friend’s cousin once removed.
We need regular reminders of why we’re creating content in the first place, who it’s for, and who it most certainly isn’t for – so we can block out all the noise and stay focused.
So here are your reminders in the form of three positive affirmations. Say them to yourself in the mirror. Repeat them like a mantra whenever you’re about to record a video or press publish on a blog. Stand in a power pose if it helps (it does).
Affirmation: My content is exclusively for my ideal clients
Affirmation: I’m creating content to help people live better lives
Affirmation: Sharing my knowledge and advice is the kind thing to do
Choose an affirmation the opposite of what you currently believe about putting your content out into the world. Target the voice saying you don’t have anything valuable to share, worrying about what other people might think. Constantly reinforce this positive mental shift until it alters your thinking patterns.
It’ll help you separate the real from the rubbish.
It is helpful to get feedback, but it must be constructive
The first draft of anything creative is a little ugly. A little rough around the edges. Sometimes all we need is a pair of second eyes to improve it.
As part of our recent team retreat, we (the PF team) read the book ‘Creativity Inc’ by Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar and president of Walt Disney Animation Studios. In the book Catmull talks about how every Pixar movie starts as an ‘ugly baby’. It’s a new idea requiring nurture. It needs to be given time, work and patience to grow up into something beautiful kids and adults alike can relate to. The Ratatouille you see on your Disney+ screen is a long way from the first concepts of a rat living in France.
And although you may not consider your blog on cash flow to be in the same realm as an award-winning Pixar movie, the same can be said of every first blog draft, or a rambly practice video take. The first draft has a purpose – to exist! The work comes in turning those first developed thoughts and ideas into something beautiful that resonates with your audience.
There’s always a place for feedback. If the first draft’s purpose is to exist, then there’s a need for thinking, playing and editing to improve it. Often it helps to get other people involved in that improvement, but collaborative people who will give you valuable feedback and help you move it along. People who will give you real advice. The kind that says “Hey, here are the things you did great” and “For next time, why not think about this”.
We’re talking about:
- People you trust who understand your market
- Your team (if you have one)
- A client you’re particularly close with who can tell you whether it’s helpful
- Professionals who help accountants get better at marketing, like the PF Team
There’s a great quote from Brene Brown about these kinds of people:
“If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, I am not interested in or open to your feedback. There are a million cheap seats in the world today filled with people who will never be brave with their own lives, but will spend every ounce of energy they have hurling advice and judgement at those of us trying to dare greatly. Their only contributions are criticism, cynicism, and fear-mongering. If you’re criticizing from a place where you’re not also putting yourself on the line, I’m not interested in your feedback.”
If you want feedback that’s going to be helpful and productive, ask someone you trust in the arena.
Feedback that isn’t constructive (and purely negative) is usually a reflection of the other person, not you
People who are truly humble and gracious will praise your efforts and provide constructive feedback even when your blog or video is in its most basic form. This whole “I’m just being honest” rubbish is not true honesty. It’s fear dressed up in the pretence of doing you a favour.
Every now and then you might post something that’s factually incorrect, or mention a piece of government legislation you hadn’t realised has been updated. If another Accountant points it out, great! You can thank them for pointing it out, and make a change in your blog to reflect the updated knowledge.
There is no shame in learning. I’m pleased to report you haven’t evolved into a machine! We all have things to learn to help us grow. Plus, any potential client who sees that exchange and expects you to be a machine incapable of making the odd mistake isn’t a great client to take on.
Most of the worry about sharing thoughts/advice/opinions online comes when you know you’re publishing authentic content that lives into your values.
It’s scary because those values may exist outside the status quo. In being yourself you might be shattering an old story of who and what an accountant is. You might not cater to every service like you used to. You might be the kind of firm to show up in a hoodie and jeans. You might be the accountant who drops an F bomb in your blog posts, because it’s the personality your clients know and love and expect.
And sometimes you’ll be judged by other professionals in your industry who aren’t ready for the status quo to be challenged. But that judgement isn’t about you. If it didn’t affect them, they’d have nothing to say.
We tend to judge other people to make ourselves feel better about our own situations and choices. The judgements are really the insecurities we hold ourselves.
What to do practically if you’re faced with a negative feedback
Figure out if it’s real or rubbish. Go back to the affirmations. Think: Who said it? Are they the kind of person your content is for? Was it constructive?
If it’s not real constructive feedback, here’s a simple filtering approach:
- If it’s about a correction – say thank you for pointing it out, make the correction in the blog, video, social post and move on.
- If it’s a negative review – Don’t take it personally, just deal with it. Read this helpful blog from Karen on what to do with a negative review.
- If it’s simply negative opinions on a blog post, video, social post – “I didn’t like this”, “this wasn’t great”, “this could be better” – unless they’re an ideal client, either ignore it and move on, or block them and move on. Goodbye, sayonara, have a nice life.
I totally understand unkind words can build a mental Hadrian’s Wall, stopping you from ever wanting to post anything again. But if you focus on separating the rubbish from the real, you can put the initial hurt of an unkind word to bed quickly. Because you can know it isn’t about you. It’s a reflection on how they feel about themselves.
Seek out a person or a group of people you choose to share your ugly first drafts with for real constructive feedback
- Join The PF Lab, where you can share your thoughts, learnings and ideas with a group of Accountants who are also in the arena. It’s a paid membership including free access to all our short courses and a monthly group coaching call.
- Sign up to join the next Accelerator intake, where you’re challenged to write a draft of a blog post every week for 12 weeks, receiving feedback from the PF Team for improvement.
- Ask a trusted peer in a peer group – Many of you will already be a part of other online communities of accountants, like the GoProposal Community. You might find a trusted friend in a safe space like this, who can give you valuable feedback, and visa versa.
- Reach out to your best client (the one you really trust) for some honest constructive feedback. Having someone tell you how you could help them better is so valuable, and will most likely apply to all your ideal clients. Plus, if they’re your favourite client, they will like you and want to help.
- Create a Brain Trust within your own team – A person or small group of people with the same goal of helping your ideal clients, who are committed to providing constructive criticism. Our Designers have recently started doing this. When one needs inspiration or when a project needs feedback to move it along, they hold a session and put their brains together to review and improve.
If you do find yourself slipping into self-criticism, go follow TheMarketingTherapist on Instagram. Move past the bad experiences and into good ones. Hit publish on that thing and be proud.
Don’t forget about the positive feedback too. Find somewhere to log the positive things your ideal clients say about your content. Keep those as constant reinforcement, like the affirmations, of why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Trust me, when you start to get positive feedback from the people you’re helping, it’ll be even easier to ignore anything else.