Talking podcast reviews today. The good and the bad. I might need a gin and tonic to get me through because this is going to include some of the less nice things people have said about me from when I was on the radio. These are all online still - I haven't collected them along the way. But I do collect the nice things people say along the way - and so should you. It's an absolute boost to look at them when you're feeling a bit pants.
Getting reviews is great way to get a bit of external validation for what you're doing on your podcast. Let's be honest you're putting your heart and soul into it so it feels good to know that somebody is enjoying it enough to actually type some words out and let the world know your podcast rocks.
But reviews as glorious as they can be are not just for you to feel good about yourself. They are also a way to persuade others to listen to your podcast. As I just said - if somebody has taken the time and effort to publicly say good things about your podcast that's a great indication for new potential listeners to give you a go. Also you should go sharing those reviews on your socials - screenshot it and post, post, post.
But, with all this lovely stuff comes some less lovely stuff.
It's a sad fact of life if you put yourself "out there" you are going to get people who don't appreciate you doing that.
I don't like everybody I hear on the radio, I don't like every podcast I listen to and I don't like everybody I watch on the telly.
It's not normal or possible to like everybody and I bet there's people you go "oh no not them" when you hear or see them appear AGAIN wherever they pop up.
What I tend to do is find something else to listen to and leave it at that, but unfortunately social media and the internet in general has given everybody a voice. And some people are not afraid to use it. I'd go so far as to say they're afraid not to use it.
So how do you deal with negative reviews?
Here's my advice and it's come from years of having people tell me what they think about me. Either knowing I'll see it or thinking I won't.
Don't take it personally.
It's amazingly easy to say "don't take it personally" when you're not reading a negative review about yourself or your podcast, but please don't take it personally.
I talk a lot about how even though I overshare massively about much of my life, there is a significant amount you don't know about me. And you won't. And that's partially down to protecting myself from taking bad reviews personally. If I haven't given you all of me, you can't judge or review me accurately. You've only got part of the picture. So any criticism is only on the bit you've got. Which isn't me 100%.
I know you're giving a lot of yourself to your podcast and if it's an extension of your personal brand it's really hard to say "this isn't about me" because it feels 100% as though it is about you.
When I was working at LBC there was a whole thread on an online forum about me. Specifically how AWFUL I was. Every single time I did a shift they would be on pulling apart my bulletin reading.
Here's a few choice examples... including some that were posted SIX years after I left. SIX YEARS...
One woman LBC could do without is Charlotte Foster, the newsreader.
No matter who is on LBC reading news, traffic, weather etc, none can be as bad as Charlotte Foster used to be! Anyone remember her?
May I take this opportunity to remind listeners of that other terrible LBC 'newsreader' of the past, Charlotte Foster. I don't know what it is with LBC employing women
But here's the thing, all these posts were by one person. One person who hid behind their anonymous online forum nickname. I have no idea who that person is.
What did I do that was so terrible? Did I swear on air? Did I stop reading the news half way through because I couldn't be bothered? Did I give out factually incorrect information? Did I murder somebody live on air? No. I got stumbled on my words a couple of times. Am I proud that on occasion while live on air I tripped over my words - no? Did it warrant being branded "the worst newsreader in all radio history?" No. Quite frankly it didn't.
But at this point in my life (mid 20s, in London on my own, big scary world) it almost broke me. And that's because I didn't have much of an identity away from Charlotte from the radio. Some of my friends even called me that. I was Charlotte From The Radio. My whole identity was around being on the radio. So I took everything they said personally.
So now I'm not Podcast Charlotte, I'm lots of things Charlotte - running Charlotte, Auntie Charlotte, sewing Charlotte, wife Charlotte, daughter Charlotte, sister Charlotte. I'm business owner Charlotte and I'm friend Charlotte. All of these have different facets and contribute to Charlotte Charlotte - but none of them on their own define me.
2 Don't dwell on the negative reviews
In my infinite wisdom (ha ha ha ha ha) once I accidentally discovered this forum and found what people were saying about me I couldn't stop looking at it and searching for horrible things about me. I imagine there's some psychology behind this searching out for the negatives but I really don't recommend it.
In particular I don't recommend looking for it before you start your podcast work. Or any work. I used to read the comments on the train on the way in to London. It was a 25 minute journey and I filled those 25 minutes with voices telling me I was rubbish. Guess what - my bulletins weren't great because I was shaking with fear before reading them because I focussed on comments telling me I was rubbish. Saying this out loud - I hope you can hear me shaking my head at myself because it was a truly vicious circle.
I'd then read it on the way home again. Which set me up for a great sleep...because have I mentioned this was when I did night shifts!!
Spending all your waking minutes focussing on the negative reviews and taking them personally will do you no good. At best you might take them to heart and stop doing your podcast, at worst the effect on your mental health could be devastating.
I've been there and I've got the t-shirt.
Don't ignore the negative reviews
Yes, that's right don't ignore the negative reviews. It may sound counter intuitive after everything I just said but some negative reviews are actually fair.
It doesn't mean they don't sting any less though. But in the cold light of day when you're not going through that first emotional, defensive response ask yourself if there is any truth in the negative review.
Is the reviewer complaining you speak too fast? Are they saying you're not very clear to hear? Are they pointing out an inappropriate question you've asked a guest maybe? Are they calling you boring?
Incidentally the breakfast show I co-presented was called boring in a comment on a post on Facebook. A few years later the post (which I'd shared on my own timeline because it was me baking at Great British Bake Off finalist Luis Troyano's house and it was just the BEST) came up on Facebook memories so I scrolled through and saw that comment telling me how boring the show I presented was. The person who commented had since joined my running club and was a mate. I let him know what he'd said... And guess what - it wasn't personal, in fact he could hardly remember typing it!
But what's important here is asking yourself are any of the criticisms valid? It can be hard to decide this on your own because of the tiny issue of being quite subjective. You're either going to take the drastic route of YES EVERYBODY WHO SAYS CRITICAL THINGS IS RIGHT. I QUIT. Or you're going to take the equally drastic but opposite route of NO! WHAT I DO IS SO PERFECT NOTHING IS WRONG WITH IT ALL CRITICISM IS LIES.
So I recommend asking somebody you trust to give you honest feedback. And make sure it's somebody you can take honest feedback from. I can not take feedback from my husband. I just can't so I don't ask him.
And much like last week I suggested you turn Imposter Syndrome into Encourager Syndrome, this week if you do get a review where it's less than complimentary then lean into it and understand if you could do better. And if you can, start a plan of action to get better.
This is not "listening to the haters" or "bowing down to the negativity" sometimes we do need be called out on stuff.
Was the breakfast show I worked on boring? At times it probably was because we didn't always get it right.
Were some of the bulletins I read on LBC awful? Not awful no, but there were nights when I couldn't get my words out for love nor money and that's not good enough. So sometimes those criticisms are relevant.
Should you respond to the negative reviews?
Some platforms don't give you a right of reply so it's not always easy to post a response. And honestly some negative reviews and criticisms don't warrant a reply because they are simply bullying. (I don't often use the word troll because it makes it sound harmless and hides the reality of what trolling actually is - bullying.)
As my parents used to say to me don't give them the satisfaction - now it would be don't feed the trolls and encourage them to keep posting because they know they've got to you.
But if somebody has been polite and come to you with a negative review it's good to have a response ready, even if it's quite generic.
Something as simple as "Thank you for getting in touch and giving me your feedback. I'm always looking to improve and grow the podcast so I appreciate you taking the time to review/get in touch/comment. "
That's all it needs to be. Just acknowledging the review, the comment - whatever, it means the person writing it might just stick around because they've felt listened to.
You don't need to spend hours explaining yourself to anybody, and I personally wouldn't unless it was a full on complaint that needed a response. But that's not normally delivered via a review.
Leave on a high
If you've just spent 10 minutes dealing with the criticisms, the negative reviews and the plain old meanies, make sure you wash all that away by spending just as long - if not LONGER, reading all the nice stuff people have said about you. The messages that people have sent like one I got this week that said "I just want to say how much I value your podcast" which makes it all worthwhile. And that's gone in my "keep this and have a look at it at least once a day folder" And that's what I recommend you do too.
Keep the positive reviews, review them regularly and take that nice warm glow feeling and spend the rest of the day doing an impression of the Ready Brek kid.
This is one of my favourite reviews from my radio days
"Charlotte Foster is a mega addition to Radio Stoke. Well done to whoever selected her... Highly intelligent young lady - good enough for Radio 4."
Hell yeah good enough for Radio 4! And that review wasn't even from my mum or dad.
So now you know what to do if you get those negative reviews. I'll let you in to a secret - this is also what you do when you get the positive reviews and praise too.
Whilst they are lovely to get - you shouldn't take them personally because they are not about you as a person, you shouldn't spend too long going over and over and over them because they are one side of the story, but you also shouldn't ignore them because specific reviews are really useful - people will be telling you what you are doing well, what they are enjoying so you can do more of that.
Respond to those reviews people are leaving. If they've taken the time to tell you you're doing an ace job - say thank you. And remind yourself that there are things you need to improve on and create a positive plan of action to do so.