Responding to Negative Feedback About Your Art

A re-post from (I recommend you creative types subscribe to this fantastic blog) Valuable info for all of us in the creative fields who may deal with the occasional negative comment. Here are some great tips... 


I recently had an email conversation with an artist who had just been through battle on her blog. After years of extensive blogging, she received her first negative comment, an inflammatory comment about a post she had written with some derogatory  comments about her art thrown in for good measure. The level of vitriol in the comment was a bit dumbfounding, especially since it didn’t seem to be coming from a dissatisfied customer, rather from a random visitor to the site who wouldn’t seem to have any good reason to be so  . . . blunt.

After the shock and pain wore off, they were replaced by outrage. The artist dashed off a heartfelt response, countering point by point each of the charges  in the comment. And thus began an epic battle in the comments section of her blog, with fiery comments flying back and forth over several days. I’m not going to post the comments here – I don’t wish to draw any more attention to them, but I’m sure that many of you who blog, have a website with a guest book, or participate in social media can sympathize with this situation. There’s nothing more disheartening than a brutal criticism of you or your work.

I’ve been blogging for about five years now, and I’ve certainly run into my share of negativity online. Really, this kind of behavior can happen anywhere – on a blog, one a third-party website, via email, and even in person. There are people out there who have a chip on their shoulder and like nothing more than to stir up a fight.

In the online world, this kind of person is called a “troll”, and they pop up all over the web. Rarely do they add anything of value to a conversation; they are usually composing their comments with the sole intent of stirring up an argument.

Dealing with Trolls

So what should you do if a Troll sets his sights on you? My advice, coming from experience, is to ignore them. Responding only feeds the fire. If you have control over the forum (if they’ve posted on your blog, for example) I recommend removing the post. Your website or blog is your personal and private property, not a public forum, and you should feel no obligation to give their comments an audience, especially when it comes at your expense. I go a step further and moderate comments before they are posted on the blog – allowing me to prevent any inflammatory comments from ever seeing the light of day.

Try not to dwell on anything said in the comments. It’s easy to let a negative post ruin your whole day. Don’t.

Trolling is a widespread problem on the internet – NPR recently had to change their entire commenting system to deal with the issue (read about that here).

Responding to Dissatisfied  Customers

But what if the comment or email comes from a real customer? It’s one thing to dismiss the rantings of a troll, but handling the negative feedback of an actual customer is another thing altogether. I’ve been fortunate to have very few unhappy customers over the years. We’re celebrating our 12th anniversary in business this month, and I can count on one hand the number of times that I’ve had a customer unhappy with a purchase or with the service they received. On the rare occasion where I do have to respond to a dissatisfied customer, I try to keep the following in mind:

  1. My goal is to get the customer back to a happy state – I will go to extremes to make that happen (although there are limits)
  2. I don’t argue with customers (or anyone else for that matter). I believe that as soon as an argument has started, the battle is already lost. Let’s be honest, it’s pretty rare that someone will change their views because of a persuasive argument. I prefer to take the diplomatic approach and try and find a common ground.
  3. Ignore the harsh stuff. If a client has used foul language or leveled strong criticism against you or your art, don’t feel compelled to respond to those parts of the communication. By responding in a civil, professional manner, you’ll likely calm things down, or, at the very least, you’ll feel better about the whole ordeal.
  4. Provide a liberal return/refund policy. Because returns are so rare in the gallery, I’ve found I can afford to be very liberal about my return policy. On the occasion when it needs to be invoked, I’ve found I can smooth over almost any situation by being generous in the return policy (paying for the return shipping on a piece of art, for example, as well as refunding the purchase price). There may be a cost involved in being liberal in this way, but in the long run, it’s worth it.
  5. Move any negative comments from a public forum to a private one. If you have a customer post a complaint or criticism on your blog or other public venue, try to get in touch with the customer privately – via phone or email to resolve the issue. Even though you are going to try to smooth the situation over, there’s no point in broadcasting the interactions to your other customers.

Responding to Critics in Public Forums

What if you don’t have control over the forum where a negative comment is posted? Several years ago I watched two artists battle it out on an artists group’s website. Apparently the two artists had a long-running rivalry in real life that moved into the comments section of this website. One artist would post an image of a new painting, and the other would jump into the comments and write what was wrong with it. The first artist would respond, and they were off – thousands of words flying back and forth. In the few posts I read, I felt like I should have a bag of popcorn since the comments had become so absurd that they were almost entertaining.

This is an extreme example, but you may have run into a negative comment about your work in a public forum and been unsure how to respond.

I’ve had this experience with the two books I have written selling on Though both have been largely well received, if you look in the reviews you’ll see a few comments that aren’t 5-star, and a few that are downright negative (if you’re curious you can read them on

Since you can’t delete the comments in a forum you don’t control, you’re going to be even more tempted to respond. Again, I would urge caution. It’s even worse to feed the fire in a public forum.

Keep the following in mind:

  1. Try not to take it personally. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and for everyone that has a negative opinion of what you’re doing, a dozen will have a positive one. 
  2. Try not to get emotional. It’s hard not to take it personally, and even harder not to let your emotions take over. The problem is that your heart is far more likely to get you into trouble than your head is. If you feel compelled to respond, I recommend waiting a day or two so that you have time to calm down. This has the added benefit of allowing your tormentor to calm down as well.
  3. Let your fans respond. Often, if you wait, your friends and fans will take care of responding for you, and it looks a lot better to have a third party responding than replying yourself. You might even alert your friends or fans to the comment via email. If you do, ask them to step up for you, but to keep it civil and avoid combat.

Responding to Critics in Person

Dealing with online negativity is hard enough, but it’s even more challenging  if the critique comes in person – say at a gallery opening or other public event. So what do you do if someone makes a derogatory comment to your face? Basically, all of the principles above apply – try not to get emotional or take it personally.  Depending on the situation, I will try to laugh it off “I’m sure glad not everyone agrees with that opinion!” or I will ask for further explanation “I’m curious about your opinion – tell my why you say that?”

No matter what the situation – online or off, remember that your critics don’t define you. Being a glass-half-full kind of guy, I like to think that each critic is helping me thicken up my skin, and for that I should be grateful, I guess . . .

Have you Been the Subject of Criticism or Negativity?

Have you ever been the recipient of negative remarks or harsh criticism? How did you respond? What have you learned about dealing with negativity? Please share your experience and thoughts in the comments below.


Why You Should Be Blogging

I am asked by my clients weekly why they should be blogging. I usually explain that it is a great opportunity to connect with your customers, share information and ultimately promote what you do. But it also has intrinsic Search Engine Optimization benefits.  I came across this post by Dave Davies at Search Engine Watch that explains blogging extremely well, and why you should be doing it. Plus, there are great tips at the end of the article:

Why Blog: The Benefits of Business Blogging for Visitors and Links

In the age of social media the attention that business blogs used to have is diminishing; traded for the instant gratification and ease of tweeting and posting short pieces to Facebook with a picture of your latest product or special of the day.

Don't get me wrong, social media is a fantastic tool for marketing and can't be ignored (in fact, it deserves a lot of attention), but blogging on a regular basis serves a wide array of purposes outside of what can be realized via social media.

Many of the benefits of blogging are specific to industries. This article will cover two broad areas and rely on you, the educated reader, to understand how these areas apply to you or you can ask questions in the comments below.

The areas we're going to focus on are:

  1. The benefits of blogging for visitors
  2. The benefits of blogging for links

At the end of this article I'm going to include a “quick tips” section. Let's be honest – it isn’t always easy to make the time or get the motivation to blog as regularly as you should and not everyone has the budget to get their staff doing it. I'll be providing a few quick tips on how to get motivated and how to dream up topics when you've written about the same subject hundreds of times.

Blogging for Visitors

When blogs first hit the web in a real way they were a central mechanism for informing and communicating with one's website visitors and customers. Businesses would blog their specials, new product updates, industry news, holidays and pretty much everything that had to do with their business.

For businesses that have moved their core communications off of blogs and onto social media, you're missing huge opportunities.

When we're considering visitors the first thing we need to do is separate the purpose and expectations a user will have when visiting a blog. Because of social media, a blog is a place one goes for in-depth information and not to see the daily special. Understanding the expecting change a visitor will have forces us down a path beneficial for both users and our analytics.

Current Visitors

When you're blogging for your current visitors (i.e., visitors that entered outside your blog or who know you already and simply use your blog as an information source) the key is no longer to post daily updates on daily deals or the such, that's the stuff of social media.

For this group, your blog is your opportunity to reinforce that you know what you're talking about and can be trusted. You can go outside your core niche but stay in related fields.

For example, if you run a food tour company, blogging about great restaurant openings with reviews or even some outstanding recipes would be wins. Keeping visitors updated on weather changes is the stuff of social media or a weather widget embedded on your site.

Your blog is where you build authority. You'll convert elsewhere on your site; your blog is where you reinforce the credibility that will turn into conversion.

New Visitors

Personally, one of my biggest focuses when thinking up blog topics is how it can be used to acquire new visitors. Because a blog post is on your domain, it can be used to drive traffic to more conversion oriented pages and best of all, if done right, you'll have established trust before they move on.

Let's take as our example the same food tour site noted above. Now let's say I'm a traveler visiting a city for the first time and decide to look up “best fine dining in New City” and find a blog review on a new fine dining restaurant.

Regardless of whether the review was positive or negative, you've got a visitor to your site who you know has money, you know likes good food, and who now appreciates your opinion. If the review isn't positive you may want to make a couple of recommendations to fine dining restaurants in the city people would enjoy.

This also applies to any product, service, analysis, etc. you may post about. The win here is that you have a visitor in your target demographic and interest set and they are relying on your opinion.

Essentially, blogs, done right, can be excellent sources of search traffic (and traffic from other sources of course) and if you've posted on topic, that traffic will be targeted properly.

You'll likely find that your blog traffic converts at a lower rate than the traffic for phrases more targeted to their needs (for example “food tours new city”) and blogging is time consuming so you may be asking, “Why would I do that?” Apart from this additional traffic there is one key SEO benefit…

Blogging for Links

Blogging gives you the opportunity to create pages related to your business but based more on timely information passing rather than the sales cycle. While your corporate website should be geared towards getting visitors into the conversion funnel, on your blog you have more latitude to create copy that is information-based.

Essentially, this is where you can generate internal link points based on providing real information of interest. While the ideal link appears when someone searches for information and finds your blog (see above) or finds the post via social media or other means and decides it's great information and posts a link to it on their website as a resource (perhaps in their own blog), most links, especially early on, will be generated manually.

To this end I pose the question: which link is more likely to be appreciated on a third party website: a link to your homepage or a link to a post that discussed a related topic?

Let's take the simplest example and that's a discussion forum or blog (I'll leave the debate of the merits of these links to others however it serves as a good example as they exist in virtually every niche). If I'm visiting a forum, answers site or blog and there's a thread discussing great food innew city, it's going to be easier and more effective to leave a comment, noting that you're a local and visit many restaurants and wrote a series of reviews of some of the more popular locations, with a link to your blog reviews category than to simply link to your homepage with a little comment, “I like restaurant x. Had a great steak there.”

On a more advanced level, if you find an industry authority site that has some great content, you can follow the authors, wait until one writes an article of interest and where you have additional information or a differing opinion, write a solid piece on the topic and either include it in the comments of the article or send it directly to the author via social media simply noting you thought their piece was great but there were some points missing.

You may not directly get a link in a one-of scenario (or you may – it happens) but done repeatedly (but not so much that you're annoying or writing to a low quality) you will develop your reputation with key industry editors and/or writers as a resource and it will pay off in the end with a link and a boost to your reputation.

Another easy way to generate links to your blog posts in a way that isn't spam is via systems like Zemanta and other content distribution systems. As a note, I don't support systems where you pay on a per-link basis, but at least in the case of Zemanta you're purchasing impressions of your content to get it in front of bloggers as they write based on the keywords they use. Whether they link to you is up to them and whether your content is a good match.

Blogging Tips

How can you keep dreaming up topics? All of us at some point may run out of steam.

Here are a few techniques you can use to keep your blog fresh, even after years of writing:

  • Write about news events. It's your job as a business owner to keep up to date with what's going on in your industry. You might as well take what you have to do and use it as an opportunity to be a resource for such information and provide your take on events.
  • Write about product or service launches, changes in your industry and related areas. For example, while an update to Chrome may not directly impact SEO, it's related by its developing company and impact on website users so it makes our list of applicable blog subjects.
  • Watch Google Trends and Twitter. Watch what industry leaders are talking about or that have a large volume of interest and write to that (understanding that if it's a timely topic like the Super Bowl your content won't rank or likely ever be seen before the interest drops). In the case of volume, you'll the writing to attract visitors and in the case of authorities chatting, you'll likely be writing primarily for links so it will have to be more authoritative.


Blogging is hard. You need to set a schedule and stick to it as best you can.

Try to start out at a volume you can maintain. Better to commit to a weekly post and throw in an extra one if a hot topic arises than to start with a daily blog post and find you don't have the time and just do them sporadically when you can.

You also want to balance your posts and divide them into logical categories so people can find what they're looking for. If you've written a number of restaurant reviews over the years, don't make your readers sift through dozens or hundreds of posts on ranging topics to find them. Create a category where all this information is located for users and for link points.

Now go, either revive your blog or start one and stick to your schedule. Use it for your visitors and for link points; just remember, if you aren't adding value to someone's site with the content on your page, then it's not good enough.

A rule of thumb: if your content isn't of a higher quality than the places you'd like to acquire a link, then don't try. You may just burn a bridge you could use later.



Girl Scouts Local Chapter Launches New Website

As a former girl scout leader it was a privilege to get to work with our local Service Unit on the new website: I remember that there were a myriad of forms and details involved with being a girl scout leader. It was my goal to help streamline the process. I wish our local ladies the best of luck and a great year. I am looking forward to cookie sales. I'll be watching the blog for details!

ARES Launches Pilot Project

ARES North America reaches benchmark Pilot Project Launch. This article from The Bakersfield Californian after their successful launch earlier last month. 

By JOHN COX, Californian staff writer

Innovative energy storage project tested near Tehachapi


Century-old railroad technology is mixing with green-style innovation at an energy storage project now being tested in the heart of Kern County's wind power region.

Santa Barbara-based Advanced Rail Energy Storage recently began running a specially designed locomotive up and down quarter-scale railroad tracks a few miles outside Tehachapi.

The idea is to use gravity instead of rechargeable batteries. Trains powered by wind turbines and photovoltaic solar plants would pull heavy loads up a hill. When an electric utility gives the signal that it needs power, the train would be released to roll back down the hill, generating a steady supply of juice much the way a hybrid electric car recharges its batteries.

ARES hopes the tests support its claim that steel wheels on steel tracks are more efficient than other storage projects, including pressured air storage, rechargeable batteries and the most common method: pumping water uphill and letting it flow through a hydroelectric generator.

Key measures of ARES' success will be how quickly its design responds to demand and how much energy is lost in the process. If successful, the system could make renewable energy more reliable and less prone to spikes in output.



Posting, tweeting, sharing, pinning. And, oh yes, blogging. The internet is a land of communication opportunity. Navigating the landscape can overwhelm. This is a space to explore the possibilities.

Early on, social media had a mythical quality about it. Success seemed to depend upon luck or chance. Today, social media engineering is a real job title. And one can be an expert in the science of social media.  Data is amazing, fun and powerful. 

The intent here is to share with you information you can use to boost your presence on the web and connect with customers that are looking for what it is you do... and create lots of conversions. If that is a new word, well, stay tuned!