How to: handle bad content

A funny thing happens when you’re a community manager – you become oddly possessive of your community. It isn’t just a kitty litter Facebook page. It’s my kitty litter Facebook page. So step off!

Okay, I don’t say “step off” when someone sends me content to post. But I have been put in situations where a coworker or someone from our PR agency sends me content to post that I’m not happy with. It isn’t that it’s off voice or off topic – it’s bad. Just…bad.

The even funnier thing, though, is usually the content is coming from someone who is my superior. Even though community managers spend their days in the trenches – on the walls, fielding customer service questions and getting called out for not responding to issues – we actually rank low in most companies in terms of organizational hierarchy.

So what do you do when you get a bad status update from the VP of brand management? Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Breathe. When I first read bad content, I tend to jump straight to the freak out phase. But instead of running into your manager’s office and yelling that the PR agency is a full of $*!%ing idiots (hypothetical situation, of course), stop and take a deeeeeep breathe.

Step 2: Dissect the content. Read the content again. And again. And again. Pull out what the goal of the copy is, especially the main idea. This may take a lot of dissection if the copy is riddled with fluff and length, but make sure you come away with an understanding of what the person was aiming for.

Step 3: Edit, edit, edit. Want to email whoever sent you the content back and tell them you can do better? Prove it first. Re-write the copy (main idea included!) and make sure it is actually better.

Step 4: Write back (with caution). Now is the time when you ask yourself, “Is this worth it?” If it is, write an email back in a positive way (i.e. Avoid dropping any F bombs). Start out thanking them for the content and telling them the idea is great. Then outline your suggested edits. Make sure to clearly explain why you made changes and how you feel it will increase engagement and work better on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Step 5: Accept the result. In my experience, people are more likely to accept your changes without any complaint when they trust you. Once you prove yourself on your social network they will start realizing that you know better than them. Because you probably do. I mean, I know I do…

But if, for whatever reason, the person comes back saying they prefer their original copy, repeat Step 1. Then accept that this one status update or blog post won’t ruin your community and you’ll personally be able to recover (And make sure to mention in your metrics presentation that you did not write that post).

And no matter how many times they shoot you down, keep fighting for the content you believe in. That’s part of being a good community manager – advocating for and recommending best practices based on your experience.


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