If Everyone’s a Critic, Why are We so Bad at Accepting Criticism?

By Jennifer Kuenzer, TrizCom PR

"This is terrific, now here's everything you messed up..."

"This is terrific, now here's everything you messed up..."

No matter what industry you work in, you will be faced with criticism at some point. You've probably given some, yourself. Specifically, “constructive criticism,” but what is that exactly? And does it look and feel the same to everyone? Well, to answer question 1, constructive criticism should be helpful – specific suggestions that seek to inform and improve your overall performance. And in answer to question 2, absolutely not. Sometimes tone, word choice or overall manner can seem confrontational, rude or just plain mean, even when the person criticizing you doesn’t intend for that to be the case. Now, you can’t control how people deliver criticism, but you can control how you receive it. Here are some tips to not only help you make the most out of the criticism you receive, but also how to accept that criticism graciously.

1.    Is it negative? Or does it just sound negative?
Criticism coming from colleagues, clients, bosses or, in the case of the PR industry, media contacts, is intended to push you to learn and improve your process and performance, not make you feel terrible. It can be a valuable asset if you don’t get too caught up in the emotion connected to the criticism itself. The best way to do that is to remove the tone. Sometimes things just sound harsh. Repeat the criticism to yourself, take out any emotion connected to the criticism (real or imagined), dig deeper for the “why” of the criticism, find its value and accept it for what it is: a form of help.

2.    Treat it as seriously as you treat praise.
It feels amazing to be told how great we are at our jobs. If compliments were physical things, they’d be banners, tiaras, sashes, medals – things we can show off with pride or wear with honor. Criticism doesn’t feel good. You wouldn’t really want to wear it. It’s not comfortable. But it is exactly what you need to grow as a professional. If you take every criticism as seriously as you do praise, that means you value improvement. It means you value what you do and the people you work with.

3.    Know the difference between justified and unjustified criticism.
All criticism is not created equally. Some criticism is just an opinion. It’s irrelevant to the task at hand, or it has zero reasoning behind it other than “I don’t like this.” It is a form of criticism that is about the person giving it more than anything else. Unjustified criticism should be given no extra attention or argument, just move to the next item. Bear in mind, with rare exceptions this tip does not really apply to your clients or media contacts.

4.    Don’t take it personally.
This one is so much easier said than done. Everything above indicates the many ways criticism feels personal, doesn’t it? But the bottom line is that, particularly with professional criticism, everyone is on the same team working towards the same goal. When someone gives feedback that sounds negative, is clearly not praise, but is completely justified in terms of the scope of the client or project, it’s not about you. Yes, the idea may be yours, or the words, or the concept, but it’s not about you. It’s about the team. Which leads me to – 

5.    Accept criticism graciously.
This one is not as difficult as it may appear. If the criticism is delivered via email or even text, take a moment to consider the criticism, remove the tone and the emotion, and don’t respond right away. Take time to craft a short and pleasant response. If it happens during a meeting or a presentation, take a breath, consider the criticism, and respond positively. Don’t offer excuses or defenses when no one is asking for them. Take it all in, and say thank you. Smiling is a natural diffuser and a good way to communicate that you understand they mean to help.

Constructive criticism creates a stronger professional, and knowing how to accept it without getting upset will help you as personally as it will professionally. It feels good, knowing that people value what you do enough to let it inspire them to contribute to your success. When we can push each other to be better, we all win.


My First Convention Experience as a Publicist

By Nikki Darling, TrizCom PR

This past spring, TrizCom PR signed Fan Expo Dallas as a new client. Fan Expo Dallas was formerly known as Dallas comic con – the largest convention for lovers of comics, sci-fi, horror, anime, gaming and more in the state of Texas. They were in need of a PR team, and we were there to offer our expertise and team of creative individuals to get the job done and exceed expectations.

My not-so-inner nerd was nothing less than stoked to work on this account. However, I knew it was going to be a learning experience, because I had not previously done PR for a big event or convention. This was going to be a first for me.

The weeks and months leading up to the convention were full of observing and learning from my superiors. I worked with them while they guided me on strategies in order to fulfill the objectives established for the event. I learned a lot about promoting a major event: I learned how different it was from a regular brand management client or PR retainer client. By the end of the convention, my head physically hurt from all of the information I took in – either that or from sleep deprivation.

However, nothing could compare to how exhilarating working the actual convention would be. I basically lived at the convention center that weekend. Seriously, I should have brought a sleeping bag and pillow for how much I was there. But I loved every minute of it.

Our team was responsible for signing in the media, giving them credentials, taking them on tours of the convention center and, of course, arranging for any onsite interviews. Not only did it feel nice to stand behind the check-in table and help dictate protocol, but it was really neat to be able to connect with the members of the media I have been pitching and idolizing for so long. Making those connections was extremely beneficial and having the opportunity to arrange interviews and make their lives easier was an added bonus

Fun fact: I also got to meet Anthony Daniels, the actor that plays C3PO in all Star Wars movies. He was a gem and even had his own mini C3PO to hold up in pictures. We took him around Dallas for different interviews and he was so willing to take a picture with anyone who walked past! 

I ran around that convention center for three days, making sure I always knew what was going on at all times while constantly scouting for media opportunities. Any time a reporter said thanks or had a look of relief come across their face when they secured an interview, I had a little adrenaline rush. I was able to do what I did every day in an office at one of the coolest conventions in Texas while interacting face to face with media. I had many moments where I felt very proud to be a part of my company and very thankful for these kinds of opportunities. Talk about rewarding.

The real fun (and nerves) came the last day of the convention when the internet-famous Chewbacca Mom was making an appearance. We anticipated the morning to be rather slow in terms of media attendance simply because it was the very last day and most of the media had already checked in. However, our previous pitching efforts paid off and, before I knew it, we were hosting four local television crews – ABC, CBS, CW and Fox. They were all there to catch Chewbacca Mom meeting the real Chewbacca, Peter Mayhew, for the first time on camera.

Before this weekend, I had not worked directly with camera crews, so working with four was a bit overwhelming at first but quickly became almost second nature. I was able to guide their shots during Chewbacca Mom’s meeting with Peter Mayhew and direct their coverage with knowledge of the event’s programming. Preparation, in this case, was key. Knowing the timing of the event, layout of the space and technical capabilities of the venue allowed me to deliver the need-to-know info quickly to the TV crews. No time was wasted.

Following the Chewbacca event, I made my way backstage where I sat down with Chewbacca Mom, Candace Payne, to prepare her for one-on-one interviews with local media stations. She was the sweetest lady, and I was so glad to meet her.

We led the cameras over to a table behind which stood a step and repeat with Fan Expo Dallas’ logo plastered all over it. There was no way we were going to have four cameras interview someone without the Fan Expo Dallas logo in sight. Our team manned the area, ensuring no fans somehow made their way back or no passerby ruined our shot. We were in the backstage celebrity area of the convention center. So it felt ironic to me that while the news crews were interviewing Chewbacca Mom, celebrities like Lucy Hale (my favorite), the Phelps twins, Jack Gleeson and Rob Schneider all walked past – some even whispering in wonderment that they were seeing Chewbacca Mom in real life.

Chewbacca Mom finished up her interviews, and we led the press into the main convention area for b-roll coverage and interviews with attendees. When all was said and done and the news crews packed up their tech gear, I made my way back to the press room – out of breath the whole time. I sat down behind the check-in table shaking and panting after my 2-hour long adrenaline rush from which we secured four television spots.

My public relations career has been a short one. I graduated from college about a year ago, so almost every opportunity thus far has turned into a learning moment for me. Hosting media, coordinating interviews and securing four television spots for my client was definitely the highlight so far. I even called my mom to tout my accomplishments of the weekend. All in all, the one thing I had to say to everyone who asked was “working that convention was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.” The experience was like nothing else, and the lessons I learned are far beyond any I could have prepared myself for.

Conventions are exhausting, I’ll be honest. But my goodness are they exciting.

Nikki Darling is a graduate of the University of North Texas where she received a B.A. in journalism with a concentration in public relations and a double minor in English and marketing. Her involvement with nonprofits in the community, mixed with her writing and design abilities, contribute greatly to her communication skills in the PR world. She is constantly striving to improve her knowledge of the industry by making the most out of every opportunity.