How to win a reader for life; the right way to respond to a “contact us” email

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Wired Science just won my readership for life (or at least a very long time).

They did it not by being right, but how they handed a situation where I felt they could have done better. I read somewhere that businesses win over customers by how they handle things that go wrong and I very much agree. Had I just read a very good post at Wired Science it probably wouldn’t have registered all that much. However I disagreed with one of their posts enough to write to them. I receive an almost instataneous response from a human (that is not automated) telling me that they had forwarded by email to the writer of the piece and suggested that I leave a comment. The way that the email was written seemed sincere and I didn’t feel like I was being given the brush off.

The next day, I was checking Technorati links into LifeTwo and saw that the writer at Wired Science had written an entire post responding to my criticisms, agreeing with my point of view, and then linking to my site. He did this on the 3rd of July when most people were already heading out for the holiday. From his post:

Responding to our coverage of a biological tweak that prevented highly stressed, junk food-eating mice from getting fat, Wired Science reader Wesley Hein gave me a well-deserved scolding for ignoring the context of the research:

If stress + junk food = obesity, then to reduce obesity we need to reduce one or both of the contributing factors. Yet none of the major media outlets covering this story (including Wired) made any mention of this. Instead it is all about the possibility of a pill that will apparently absolve us of any need to exercise, eat properly or reduce stress. […]

People today are dying today as the result of obesity-related diseases and they shouldn’t be told to wait for the promise of a wonder drug that will effortless melt fat away. It’s hard to imagine a worse message.

Wesley is absolutely right. The research isn’t any less valid for the points he raised, but they deserved to be mentioned — and we, along with other mainstream science journalists, generally failed to do this.

I was pleased, humbled, and impressed all at the same time and hope that I can be half as responsive the next time someone emails me with some constructive criticism regarding something that I write.

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