How To Handle Rough Fan Feedback

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or how many people know you.  There will be people who don’t like your announcing for one reason or another.  If your job is to come in for someone the fans loved, it’s going to be a tough road, regardless of how or why the

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or how many people know you.  There will be people who don’t like your announcing for one reason or another.  If your job is to come in for someone the fans loved, it’s going to be a tough road, regardless of how or why the other person left.  It’s an unforgiving job.

Just look at Darrell Hammond on Saturday Night Live, replacing the legendary Don Pardo.  Hammond has been at it for more than a season, and yet is still trying to find his hold on the right delivery, and this paragraph is right in line with the subject at hand.

There are always going to be people who love you, and who don’t love you.  But how do you handle those who are less than content with your work?  Do you ignore them?  Do you fight back?  Do you acknowledge their gripe?  Well, the answer is a combination of all three, as there really isn’t one good way to handle it, beyond being as nice a possible, leaving them with a smile and diffusing the situation while also addressing their remarks.  This is good, basic customer service.

This post will be raked through the coals by others who think another way works.  However, I’m going to use situations that have happened to me, how I handled it, and how I could have handled it better.

You need to be careful in this internet age, because you can find out about your work without ever hearing anything directly.  Here’s one case from Utah State University where fans were griping about the P. A. announcer on their message boards.

Situation 1

Parent from a visiting team approaches you while you are announcing the starting line-ups and is trying to interrupt you.  What do you do?

Solution 1

Continue announcing, but acknowledge they are there with a non-verbal cue.  While it is rude to just ignore someone who is trying to get your attention, it will look really bad if you just stop announcing the starting line-up.  Most times, it will be a question someone else can answer, but if it’s one of those rare, “I’m making the worst mistake an announcer could make” moments, the person will let you know and understand your response.

What I’ll do, is smile at them, nod and hold up a couple of fingers.  If they insist, I’ll point to the line-up card and the microphone.  There have even been times I’ve quickly shut off the mic and said, “I’ll be with you shortly” and smiled.  The key here is to smile.  A smile is paramount to maintaining a professional appearance.

Situation 2

A parent from a visiting team comes up to you after the game has started and is complaining to you about your announcing style.  Upset that their team isn’t being announced with the same enthusiasm as the home team.

Solution 2

This can be a volatile situation, one of those where you can’t see the wick to know if it’s still lighted.  The majority of the time, it’s a well-meaning parent who is new to the team and this is their first venture away from their home field.  While I hope you’re announcing both teams with respectful enthusiasm, the home team still deserves a little more because it’s their home field/court/rink/etc.  Yes, there are people and organizations who say the announcer should be impartial, that should only apply to tournaments and neutral site games.

In the rare case you get a parent who is angry, they fall into three categories.

  1. The person who announces at their school and is hearing from parents how much better you are.
  2. The person who is upset at the coaching staff about their child’s playing time.
  3. The person who feels that everyone should listen to them about everything, regardless of expertise.

The first one is quite common.  Typically, you hear from parents after the game that you did a good job, better than what they have, or something similar.  Jealousy can lead to uncomfortable situations.  Just smile, acknowledge the person, and ask for their help.  “Hey, since you announce for your team, can you verify how to say these names?”  Even if they’re easy names, still check.  It makes the person feel better that they had the chance to assist where needed.  And announcers who feel they can approach other announcers only helps all of us.

The second situation happens a bit at higher levels, typically where parents spend thousands of dollars sending their child to camps and feel that their child is better than someone else’s on the field.  Honestly, I’ve been around this so long that I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those parents, but can understand the frustration.  The parent is taking their anger out on someone, anyone they feel will listen and won’t fight back.  They’ll rip into you about everything you’re doing, that you’re showing favoritism to certain players, you forgot someone’s music, you ignored someone’s music request, etc.  You’ll usually find out the underlying problems after the fact, but this can be a very awkward situation, especially when you’re one-on-one or other parents are trying to stay out of it.  The only thing you can do is smile and diffuse the situation.  Agree with some of their issues, and even apologize for some of their problems.  Do so with a calming voice, but keep smiling.

The third situation happens when you have an announcer who has been doing it for a couple of years, may have been asked to help out with other events and is starting to think they’re God’s gift to announcing.  They’ve been to a few games, they’ve heard some announcers, and they have a strong following at their school or with their team.  Humble pie is a dish they’ve yet to discover.  One of the worst I had was a guy who’d been announcing for his son’s school for five years and proceeded to tell me that iTunes was the way to go for music playback, using the buttons on the keyboard is old technology (for playing sounds), that he has everything on his iPad2 with this awesome app that plays music and he can switch to the rosters when he needs to, and that nobody uses mixers anymore, not even the pros.  And he knows because he’s been to games and there’s no way they can use mixers.  For what it’s worth, the stadium he went to and saw them not using a mixer, I will bring in a mixer when doing events there.

Upon asking how long I’ve been doing what I do, which was 20 years at the time, the response was, “yeah, you ever do any pro games, I hang out with the guys at [local Minor League team] sometimes.”  Yeah, 12 years worth.  It’s hard not to want to put someone like that in their place, and I absolutely hate doing it.  It’s not about how long or how many, but how much you know and understand.  Someone who has been announcing five games a year for 50 years, well, I’ve announced more than that in one year.  Who knows more?

The thing to remember, is the person you’re talking to could be someone who could be responsible for future jobs, whether directly or indirectly.  You never know.  Always talk to people and listen, don’t boast about your experiences unless asked, because there could be someone out there who has done more and knows more than you do, that you could learn a lot from.

Situation 3

A coach or parent from the visiting team approaches you with the statement, “We don’t do that at our place, do you have to do it here?”

Solution 3

This happens quite a bit with high school sports, typically for non-Varsity, non-major sports.  It doesn’t make sense that you can walk into someone else’s house and then tell them how to live, why people think they can do that with scholastic sports is amazing.

One parent approached me between sets of a volleyball match, walking across the court in a beeline right for me that the officials thought she knew me so they didn’t say anything to her until she started yelling.  She voiced her displeasure with how we’re ruining the sport and the girls hate all the music and noise.  Behind her, 14 of the 15 girls on the team were dancing, both managers and their coach.  They’d just lost the set by 15 points or something like that.  The one girl who wasn’t dancing, was the daughter of the mother who complained.  Later in the match, the girl said something to her coach about the music, and was subsequently taken out of the match.  The coach apologized after the match was over.

This is hard to handle because you want so bad to point at the players and say, “It doesn’t look like they hate it.”  But you can’t do that, unless forced to do so to diffuse the situation.  Sometimes you have to give a third-person resume to the person to diffuse the situation, but that’s not always easy.  In this case, we had the official who stepped between the mom and me to get her away from the table.

This situation is also hard to avoid.  After a while, coaches know what to expect, but even reaching out to them ahead of time can cause issues.  It’s a fine line to walk, but it’s part of the territory.

The key to all of these situations is to not allow the situation to define you, or allow yourself to drop your professionalism.  There is a saying, “kill them with kindness”.  Create a positive memory for someone as best you can, and some have said you can’t please everyone but some of my biggest fans started out as some of my biggest enemies for one reason or another.  Don’t burn bridges and don’t hold grudges, you never know where that next job may come from.

Jarrod Wronski

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