Home Page How to re-act when someone is negative about you 30/11/12

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Matthew Hancock
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Hart of the Matter

Did you think four questions was rather a small number for the Any Questions? panel to manage to deal with in 45 minutes last week? Not that I have any sort of axe to grind – it doesn’t bother me at all that I was next in line to ask one and just missed out on the opportunity to be heard on national radio.


I considered my question to be witty and incisive, so it was the nation at large that missed out, not me. I couldn’t care less. I shan’t be writing to the BBC to complain about the chairman allowing the panel to get bogged down in tit-for-tat debate about Europe, or the energy bill or prisoners’ votes.


As I didn’t manage to tell anyone else, I’m going to regale you all, dear readers, with my witty and incisive question. Here it is: Who is taking on the tougher challenge – Tony Hall or Justin Welby? (In case you don’t know, one will be heading up the BBC and the other the Church of England).


Two birds with one stone, I thought. The panel could deal with Jimmy Savile and women bishops – what a potent mix!


In fact, after the programme was over, a new question came to mind - one which Haverhill has had to ask itself this week. How should a community react to being portrayed poorly?


There’s been a lot of hullaballoo this week about the introductory description of the town which Jonathan Dimbleby read out, in which such words as ‘overspill’, ‘isolation’, ‘deprivation’, ‘unemployment’ and ‘social problems’ featured strongly.


Some people were so incensed they complained afterwards and the BBC backtracked so far as to re-record the intro for the Saturday repeat and the podcasts, which only spoke of ‘social problems’. Apparently researchers admitted the initial picture had been unfair.


It didn’t surprise me because the picture was the same as that given in the intro last time the programme came here. The fact that people actually complained formally this time, rather than just moaning to one another, may show the town has become more confident in itself.


Some wanted to go a lot further. The story was reported by the Press, generating some unpleasant comments about Haverhill which suggested Mr Dimbleby’s first effort was not negative enough. Some wanted to refute that and take it up further with the BBC.


Others, however, feel this is all a storm in a teacup, and will pass away in no time, as long as we don’t give it the oxygen to keep the story running.


So which is the right reaction? Do we write in to the BBC? ’Dear Mr Dumbleboy, If you can’t pronounce the name of a place properly, we suggest you stay away. Signed, Furious of Hayverhill not Havverhill.’


Do we ignore it completely and when, in five or ten years’ time the programme comes back again and the same old BBC profile is regurgitated by Mr Dimbleby or his successor, we take it on the chin again and hope it will go away?


It is a difficult judgement to make. But there was a third suggestion made – that we should think more seriously about how we market Haverhill and how it is portrayed nationally.


For instance, one of the lame-brain comments posted on the story suggested the streets of Haverhill are littered with people lying about drunk all day and night. Where, in the name of everything barmy, did anyone get that idea from?


Of course, when you come to think about it, there are probably idiots about who make that sort of claim for every town or city. I have heard it made for some very classy places on little better evidence.


But one could clearly see the person making it was loopy because it was drowned in all the good things people said about those places. The problem in Haverhill is that not enough people are saying good things about it loudly enough and frequently enough, so the bad ones are still audible, and often still dominant.


It wouldn’t cost anyone anything other than a little bit of time to go on every website they can think of where Haverhill might have a profile and, under a load of made-up names, blast it with acres of positivity.


I can’t claim to know much about marketing and I’m not of the generation to be an expert about social media, but I do know that if you want to sell tickets to a event, a show or a concert, one of the most effective ways is to keep bombarding Facebook and Twitter with how good it is, or is going to be.


Don’t ask me why. To be honest, I would soon get sick of people telling me how fantastic their achievements, or those of their group, are. But that is not the way of the world now. In fact, it probably never was.


It has probably always been the case that if you say something enough times it is eventually believed to be true. It seems to me to be the basis of advertising. Nowadays we have the opportunity to do that in a way previous generations could not, because of the limitless Internet.


The fact that we don’t could mean one of two things. Either we don’t care, in which case there is no point in complaining to the BBC about their little faux pas, or we don’t believe the positives ourselves, in which case we must agree with the profile of our town which was broadcast last week. Which is it?

David Hart
David Hart revives his personal take on the week in Haverhill, covering everything from major town developments to what we do with our rubbish.
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