Most lawyers can agree that one of the most threatening emails ever to hit their inbox is announcing a new one (1) star review for their law firm. And while it is a horrible situation to be, now more than ever, there are multiple ways to handle the situation to turn around things.

Our conversation explores the recent updates Google My Business has introduced in an attempt to improve and expedite the handling of fraudulent or inappropriate reviews registered in your Google My Business account. So whether it’s a disgruntled competitor trying to stain your reputation or an unreasonable client abusing your GMB profile, Google is now offering you a way out.

But when the one-star review is from a real customer, where did things fell through the cracks? We explore how dealing with negative reviews can give your law firm a platform to show prospective clients how you over-correct things in the unlikely event that an event doesn’t go as planned.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

How to Manage Your Law Firm’s GMB Reviews

Send us your questions at ask@incamerapodcast.com

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Liel: [00:00:00] Responding to negative reviews can create positive results. Statistics show that of the customers who received a response from a company after posting a negative comment, 33 percent turned around and posted a positive review, while 34 percent deleted the original negative review. I’m Liel Levy, co-founder of Nanato Media, and this is In Camera podcast where we stay calm and always click respond.

Liel: [00:00:57] Welcome to In Camera podcast, Private Legal Marketing Conversations. Grace, welcome back. How are you today?

Grace: [00:01:03] I’m good. How are you, Liel?

Liel: [00:01:05] Great. Thank you very much for asking. We are coming very close to the end of March and that will basically put an end to the first quarter of 2021, which is quite remarkable. I mean, I know I must sound like a broken record every time that I go on and reflect on how quickly the time passes. But it’s amazing to believe that we’re already one quarter down on twenty twenty one. Yeah.

Grace: [00:01:28] I mean, you know, it’s just like we were just talking about before we even started. It feels like everything is just one after the other and there’s a lot of things going on at the same time. Right.

Liel: [00:01:38] Yeah. I mean I think Grace in a way or another, it’s been an interesting first three months, but as a whole. I think it’s been a period where a reality primarily settled and we kind of came to face the fact that things did not necessarily stay in 2020 when it came down to lockdowns and the disruption that we saw as a whole in businesses, in industry. And I think whether we wanted to admit it or not, I think we all had a lot of expectations for things to maybe move at a faster pace in the year. And it actually has. Right. I mean, pretty soon potentially, we will be going back to live conferences, live events to potentially some in-person meetings and such. But I think even though things have moved at an accelerated pace, it doesn’t feel fast enough, at least that’s how I feel. And I’m not complaining. I know there are other places that are seeing it much worse than we are here. But to be honest, that’s a little bit how I felt about these first three months. Do you feel the same or not quite?

Grace: [00:02:53] I do. It does feel like a lot of things are going a lot slower and everything keeps getting pushed out. Another 30 days. Another 30 days.

Liel: [00:03:01] Yeah, exactly. That pushing out of things. Right. And it’s that old same thing that people are not that confident, whether it’s safe enough to actually now go back to the traditional methods. And we were talking about last week at the beginning of the episode also that the trial lawyer summit that’s happening in May. So even that event, even though it’s happening in person, like there’s so many precautions that are being taken in order to make the event happen in terms of limiting capacity, all of the social distancing requirements face covering. That’s going to be mask-wearing that’s going to be required throughout the event. Meals happening outdoors, like there is a lot of steps that are being taken in order to make it happen. So it is going to be an in-person event, but still one that it’s going to have all of these adjustments that we’ve kind of like grown used to by now. So it’s really going to be interesting to see whether another bigger conference happens in the summer. How is that going to look like and then how the ones in the fall are going to be looking like? And that’s with regards to conferences and events and such. But, of course, also the aspect of daily life interactions, whether this is at the offices, whether is the way that law firms are conducting hearings or meeting with clients.

Liel: [00:04:21] So there is still quite a journey to go before we can really say, OK, we’re back to where we were in March of 20.

Liel: [00:04:30] So, Grace, I have thought about a topic that I think it’s been quite a while since we haven’t talked about it, believe it or not, because we usually are always touching on different things that we are constantly talking about. But this one in particular, at least one that I think that we haven’t covered in a few months now. And it nice to review generation. So we’ve talked about the importance of generating reviews for your law firm. Right? We’ve talked about the platforms that actually carry a heavy weight when it comes down to capturing reviews from your existing clients and past clients. And we also talked about why is it important to respond particularly to negative reviews, one aspect that we may have mentioned, but on this conversation, I’m trying to really do a deep dive into what can you do when you actually register an illegitimate review, particularly on Google My Business. And I know you and I, as we were having our conversation in preparation to this episode, you actually mentioned that you recently had to go through it. So do you mind carrying sorry, sharing a little bit more with us about what happened and why did you identify this as an illegitimate review?

Grace: [00:05:49] So it was actually a two different businesses that, as you know, I’m the CEO for all of Ed Lake companies. So we manage a couple of different businesses on Google my business. And it was two different businesses that I was managing. And I happened to notice a review on the event business that we have. It’s really a conference center space that we have. I had noticed the review that was a little bit it wasn’t odd. It was just somebody that honestly never came here. And I knew that because I see everybody that comes to our space. It was an older review, as a matter of fact, and it kind of popped up on Google my business as having been removed, I remember almost a year ago. OK, so this must have been something that was very recent in terms of what they’re allowing or what they’re removing because of the flagging it. So it was almost a year ago I flagged this as a review that was not real because this person had never been here. And so it was a one-star review and they didn’t really leave any information. It was just a tag and that was it. So I flagged that. And then maybe a week ago, as a matter of fact, I got a notification from Google saying that this review was removed due to a policy that was there. Those exact words due to policy.

Liel: [00:07:17] Yeah.

Grace: [00:07:17] So I was like, oh, that’s interesting. And I went back and I looked at which review it was and it was the one I had flagged over a year ago.

Liel: [00:07:24] Wow. OK, Grace. So you actually identify the review that you felt is a legitimate this is not a real client of ours. So you went to Google my business flagged it out as it was supposed to be done back a year ago. And you just heard back from Google last week.

Grace: [00:07:45] Yes.

Liel: [00:07:46] So twelve four months to get a review down, right?

Grace: [00:07:49] Yes.

Liel: [00:07:50] OK, so that’s what this conversation is about, is about really sharing the news that Google at least is attempting here to become more efficient at helping business report the illegitimate review activity that they may experience under Google my business listing and also create a better path, not just to submit your request for review on a review, but to actually follow up on it. OK, so here is what is new Grace, if you were today. So what you say in the past, it was like you went to your Google my business you saw that you had a new review. You usually get notifications by email. Right. And your business has received a new review and you go and you check and you can read the full review and you can also respond back to the review. But, there was also the option as flagged, this review. Well, that’s where the first change has taken place. You still do the same process. Let’s suppose you get a new review. But this one is one that you feel that is illegitimate. If you are in that situation and see that you still do the same thing, go to Google my business, select your business, because as you very well said, you can have different businesses, different locations associated to your account. Right. And you choose the review that you feel that is illegitimate. And you can actually, at this point, select or tell Google that there is a problem with this review. And then Google will ask you questions from a dropdown list or kind of like select which one of these applies. And it will say, what’s wrong with this review? These are the options that Google will allow you to select. This review is not relevant to this place. Conflict of interest, offensive or sexually explicit, privacy concern, or a legal issue. Now, this is actually really helpful because it can already allow you to give Google a little bit of a background as to why is it that this is illegitimate, but after you requested. Or after you selected the type of concern that you have with regards to this particular review you are taken to a different place where you can actually add up additional information as to what is the problem with this review, which is giving you the option now to actually type in the information. So the first one is which policy? Like the first question, it’s an open-ended question, which policy you suspect the review is violating. And the good thing here is that it actually gives you also a link to the full Google policies so that you can more easily identify the one that would be applicable for you now. Grace, let’s just say a few examples as to when could law firms be in a place where they may be experiencing or they may receive any legitimate review? Here’s one.

Liel: [00:11:02] For instance, let’s suppose you’ve got a case. You referred it out to a different law firm and a different law firm is taking and handling the case. And they were the ones who actually served and dealt with the client. Now the review comes back to you. The client comes back to you and leaves you a negative review, kind of assuming that you are at that law firm that actually helps them. In that case, you may be able to claim the review was illegitimate because you were basically being confused as a different business. So that’s one scenario where you may be able to review, of course, there a fine line here that would depend as to how much of a separation there was at the time of referral, where you very clear and explicit at letting know the client that they are going to be working directly with another law firm. In that case, this may be applicable, but if you are signing and retaining the client all under your law firm and then kind of like outsourcing the case to be handled through partner law firm or such, then things become a little bit harder to justify that way. Right. And so that’s why it’s extremely important, Grace, to feel very comfortable and confident about who you are partnering for referrals. Right. That’s something that we’ve mentioned and talked about previously quite a bit.

Liel: [00:12:25] So that’s one scenario. Grace, what’s another scenario? Well, you just feel that there is a competitor out there that’s out to get you. And it’s making up a review of someone who has never been a client. You don’t have any name registered. You’ve actually taken steps in an effort to try to reach that person. You left them a response on your account for the review itself, asking them to please reach out. There’s no information that you can associate by the details that they shared in terms of who they are, whether they’re being a client or not. And so that could be another reason that you could potentially put up a complaint on a review. Of course, if the review includes profane language or threats, that one is kind of like self-explanatory. And then there’s also the privacy issues, right. Is the person leaving the review disclosing information that shouldn’t be open to the public. So these are, of course, some of the most top-of-mind cases, of course, potentially maybe other ones. But the great thing about the new process here, Grace, is that, as I said, when you go to their request for the removal of the appropriate review page, right. Where you’re actually allowed to submit additional information to Google as to what do you think is wrong with this review, there is an opportunity for you to actually explain yourselves in writing and type exactly what, in your opinion, is wrong with the review, in addition of quoting the policy that the review is in violation.

Liel: [00:13:57] Now, here’s the thing that it’s very important that everybody understands is that this is a process that is manual. Right. So when Google receives this report from you, this complaint from you, they’ll have to do a manual review over it. And so what does that mean? It means that it may take some time. I think it will not take a year like it used them in the past. That’s one of the improved features that this new processing system to review reporting has. And what else here is that it also allows you writing the passage you did after you submitted your complaint, sort of saying there was no real way to actually go and track and check the status of approval of an actual claim or a report that you have already created on a review, which is something that you can actually do now. So rather than submitting multiples, after you’ve gotten exhausted of waiting 12 months for hearing back and going back and put up another review request, review your report on that same review, you can actually just keep track of what is the status of your current claim by going and checking through your Google my business on that particular review status, so it’s an improvement as a whole, Google wants to protect businesses, give them a better experience in managing and controlling their reputation by actually at least allowing them to hear and to explain why they believe certain reviews may be fraudulent. So what are your initial take on all of these, Grace?

Grace: [00:15:36] I like that. For me, it’s big deal, I think, for a lot of businesses, if not all businesses. This is a huge deal because there were a lot of times where I would see reviews and I would read reviews about other companies and I could tell that it was a former employee that was just upset or it was just somebody that honestly never visited the place. But they heard it from a friend that it was bad, you know, hearsay. And they’re finally, in my opinion, Google is finally covering as many of these different potential issues as possible, you know, with their different categories that they’re allowing you now to select the off-topic category. You know, that could be somebody that never worked, that worked for you before, and or they let you go, you know, conflict of interest. That’s another one that could potentially be something to do with, you know, a disgruntled employee. You know, these are all little things that have always plagued the businesses out there. And I like that Google has always been about the user. Right. But I feel like they’re finally giving a little bit more to the business to give them the tools that they need to not fight back, but at least protect their brand. Right. Because it’s never about fighting back. You always respond to every review. That’s something that Liel and I have always said on everything we’ve done, even these negative ones. Right. I mean, you need to respond to every review. It’s just timeliness. It’s engagement. I mean, any number of reasons that we’ve gone over as to why. But for me, it’s now we have a tool that we can use as a business to help protect our brand and ourselves. Besides just responding to a negative review. 

Liel: [00:17:25] It’s a very common feeling amongst law firm owners that they feel very vulnerable when it comes down to what’s happening on the Google my business in terms of reviews. Right. Like up until now, it was a very, very helpless situation when you’ve got reviews that there were negative and you could really felt there was nothing that you can do about it. Oftentimes flagging out the review led to nothing to no outcome whatsoever, whereas now in this new process, that actually allows the business to provide more context and kind of like build up their case as to why do they feel this review is illegitimate. There is at least an organized process that will be followed and will come up with a resolution. Now is also the point that if you’re not satisfied with the actual resolution, you can also dispute that. So you can also go after putting up an additional claim on a final resolution. Now, we also know that Google can be very stubborn in the sense that once they made a decision, it’s going to be a little bit hard for them to reverse back. But I think what they’re showing here is a lot of willingness to do right by businesses and to acknowledge that. Yeah, I mean, you know, Google, my business is not a fraud-free environment. And there could very well be people leaving out reviews for the wrong reasons.

Liel: [00:18:45] And so I think this gives an opportunity for businesses to protect themselves from that grace. I’ve met and I’ve talked with attorneys that they are actually at times consider, right, when they’re trying to try something new for their business or expand to a new type of practice area or something. They’re so concerned about the impact that could have on your existing Google my business, that they entirely think about creating a different location, a sub-brand, so they can just not take the chance of doing something new under their existing Google my business profile, not to damage it. Well, if strategically that is the right path for you to follow and that’s what you want to do. Great. But you shouldn’t be going after that sort of decision out of fear that your Google my business is going to get impacted in a way that you’re going to lose control over it. So that’s one thing. Now, Grace, another thing that I wanted us to touch as part of this conversation is the fear that exists about getting a negative review, I think, as we’ve gotten used to over the years, to interact and read reviews, I think. Right. You understand when the review has been left by an angry person that had a very particular incident, then you can actually tell and differentiate, you know, whether that’s something that you see yourself reacting or happening to you or not. Right, so negative reviews don’t necessarily need to be the worst thing to happen to your law firm, even if you get one every once in a while. It’s really about what actions are you taking to address the concern of the clients? You still have an opportunity, no matter whether it’s a negative or positive review, you always get a chance to respond back to the person leaving the review. And by actually doing that, then you put back into perspective things to the reader, to the user who’s exploring and trying to make a decision whether you’re the right firm for them or not. How are you handling the review? Did you leave that unanswered? Well, that’s a bad sign. Did you actually answer it and show a lot of interest and goodwill to either correct things or explain back to the person who left you the negative review? Why is it that you were unable to take your case or whatever? Right. Without obviously going into details and giving private information. But there’s a lot that you can do there to give context to the reader and help them understand really nothing wrong happened here. We just did our job the best that we could. We’re sorry that you are not satisfied with the outcome, but please feel free to reach out to us. We’ll be more than happy to have a conversation with you about this and try to help you find alternative solutions. Right. Or guide you towards somebody else that may be better equipped to help you, whatever that is. Right. There are endless reasons why people go and leave negative reviews at times. But my point also here is, do not confuse things. If you actually got a legitimate negative review of someone who just experienced miscommunication with the law firm, results that were accomplished did not meet their expectations for such, then that’s actually a legitimate review. And don’t try to play that system of Google and try to get it removed just because you don’t want to have a negative review, because chances is that it’s not going to be taken down. You probably have better chances at trying to solve that by actually working out with the person who left a review, see if there’s an opportunity to turn things around, and then ask them also if they would be interested or willing to reconsider the review they left, which is another thing. Users can always go back and change the reviews, always. So, again, you know, there is a lot of options here that you have to actually try to get to the right outcome. So, you know, it’s few things to keep in mind. What do you think, Grace?

Grace: [00:22:46] Yeah, there’s I mean, there’s quite a few considerations, right, in terms of your reviews. And it’s the driving blood of the business nowadays on and has been for a long time. I mean, it really has you know, whether it’s Yelp reviews, Google reviews, whatever type of review, word of mouth reviews, reviews have been the lifeblood of any business for ever. You know, I feel like this is given an opportunity to all the businesses that are out there to be able to make these, you know, tools, decisions, as I said before, and in addition to what you’re saying is being able to flag it appropriately, categorize it and have that option to fight for your business and make sure that there’s nothing going wrong with it brand wise, review wise and all the things that Google has out there to help you in terms of SEO and everything else, this is just another tool. So right. For me, that’s kind of how I look at it. It’s like, OK, good. Google is always about the user and it’s trying to make it better for the user. Businesses are users to on Google my business. So for them to enhance that tool and make it more user friendly for the business just makes sense to me. It’s just, you know, I know covid kind of put back a lot of things for a lot of companies, and that was Google as well. So that’s probably why it took them 12 months to get to my review and, you know, figure out why it was spam and it wasn’t somebody that ever was a client of ours. But it happened. It worked. And they went through and they took it down. So, you know, I’m willing to wait. I am if, in the end, it’s going to be the resolution that I want. But as a law firm, I don’t think we are willing to wait. And I personally am not on the law firm side either. So the fact that they’ve increased or sped up this process and including adding more categories than they’ve ever had before, I think that’s going to make it easier on us as a law firm and it will make it easier on Google because they can just look at the category and say, OK, this person was an employee because you’ll be able to find that on social media somewhere. Right. Or if they use terms or language that says, oh, I used to I know somebody that worked here and they got fired, so. These people, you shouldn’t go to them as lawyers, that’s another reason to be able to flag it, and great, that’s great. It’s giving them all the options, tools, and categories that they need to flag these things as inappropriate reviews, because what are reviews? A review of your service as a client, not as an employee, not as a friend of somebody that used your service. Now, the whole point of reviews is a true explanation of your experience with that business. So it’s pretty clear, I think.

Liel: [00:25:43] Right. So it is a good, better improved resource for businesses to regain control over it and feel that at least they’re having a better opportunity to explain themselves to Google. So, Grace. What do you think should be our takeaways? Right. As we are revisiting review generation, particularly Google my business, let’s look a little bit at the bigger picture, what our takeaways for law firms when it comes down to reviews in 2021.

Grace: [00:26:10] So I think my first takeaway would be, you know, don’t forget Google my business. We’ve said that quite a few times, you know, in terms of posting on they’re reviewing your reviews. But you’d like we’re serious about this, guys. You need to make it a part of your strategy. I mean, if you have one person or some people, a group of people dedicated to making sure that everything that’s being posted reviews everything being done on your Google my business is being looked at. Do that.

Liel: [00:26:40]  With the whole lockdown and remote working and a lot of that kind of like personal interaction that got a little bit lost over the past 12 months. Reviews may have been one of those things that could have fallen through the cracks for some law firms that they were very set up in the system of asking for the reviews in person when the clients were at the actual office in person where you have a more engaged conversation, then when you’re actually having a phone conversation or some conversation, it doesn’t necessarily translate the same way. Right. Yeah. So I think it’s it’s a good reminder that you cannot afford really not to make efforts to generate these reviews are actually important for your business, are going to help you for attracting new clients, for local search relevance. And as a whole, it’s just a great way of getting feedback from your clients and be able to use it to better your business. And that’s why that’s what it’s going to be. My takeaway number two, Grace, is nobody wants bad reviews but be objective when they come. Is there anything for you to learn there? Don’t try to play Google into making them believe that it’s not illegitimate to review when it’s actually a legitimate review and you just need to approach the handling of it by actually responding to the review person in a professional and cordial manner and try to actually find a way to turn things around for that person so they can change their perspective on your law from on to services.

Liel: [00:28:24] Most of the things, most of the reasons why people leave negative reviews can actually be worked on and potentially turn around. So find whether you can actually do that. Right. And even when it is and you can’t it’s just out of your hands. You cannot do that. Well, take the time to at least reach out, connect to this person, have this conversation, hear them out, and let them also know sometimes that being heard that acknowledgment that you’ve heard them, that you understand the concern that can have enough impact. Right. And then you can also ask them if there will be willing to revise their review if they felt that they have reached a more desirable outcome out of interacting with your law firm. So that would be my one, Grace. Right. Google is coming up with goodwill, trying to make it easier for businesses to report and explain when illegitimate things are happening in their business. Let’s not abuse the right. Right, because, you know, just like we saw a few years ago when they cracked down on all of these virtual Google my businesses offices opening up for law firms, that it impacted a lot of legitimate businesses that actually had real locations. And just saw their Google my businesses get shut down because others were abusing it. The same effect we can anticipate to take place if a bunch of legitimate reviews get and start being reported as illegitimate. So we’re all in this together,

Grace: [00:29:54] To your point. I mean, that’s something that you and I have always said, right? Don’t go against the things and be truthful, right? I mean, that’s in the review. You have to be truthful. And I look at negative reviews to see how that business responds to the negative review I look those first,

Liel: [00:30:12] Yeah, Grace, like, that’s totally true, that’s what we were saying. Like people want to see that, like people, ok, I saw four point eight. Fantastic. Now, let me see what happens when things go wrong. Right. Let me see what happens. Let me see why people leave this business, law firm, unhappy. And you’re looking for that strategically just to understand whether A is that’s something that you see yourself being in that circumstance, right. B, whether it was to happen to you, would you be fine with it? And as you said, how did the actual business respond to that situation? Because not all businesses are perfect and certainly not all customers are perfect. So there is not there’s not such thing as people thinking always the customer has one hundred percent the right in every single circumstance.

Grace: [00:31:05] Right. So, how you respond to me is the big deal. It really is how you respond to negativity, because one hundred percent, that’s how I deal with businesses, people, everything. Right. And how are you going to act in the most dire, horrible situation of somebody bad-mouthing you? OK. 

Liel: [00:31:22] Exactly.

Grace: [00:31:23] That’s how your business is going to react to that. Then that’s how I will approach it. And the most important thing of what you were saying directly contact these people if you have a way of doing that. If you can’t do that on the review and you try to ask them or speak with them or ask them if they want you to call them and they don’t respond, OK, fine. But try because they can change the review.

Liel: [00:31:47] Yeah, yeah, of course. One hundred percent. So definitely leave a review, a note back. I think that could be take away number three. I mean whether it’s a positive or negative review, always respond. Right. It’s just a good gesture and it gets you extra points with Google. So that’s a given. And we know that now. Negative reviews that are legitimate. Right. We already know what to do when it’s illegitimate. There is a process. You go to your Google my business, you report it. You do your homework by reading their policy, making it very clear to them what policy is being violated, and giving them the reasons why you feel that policy is being violated. And then you just follow up after you put up that claim so you can keep track as to when it’s getting resolved. Hopefully won’t be twelve months now. If you actually have a review that is negative and it seems to be legitimate, respond. Right. And don’t take seven days to respond, respond as soon as possible so you’ll get alerts. There shouldn’t be a reason why you’re not checking your Google my business reviews daily. If you are getting alerts daily or weekly if you were getting an alert once a week. Right. It should be very simple. Respond to the person in writing on that platform. Why? Because we’ve already mentioned it so many times. If that’s how they communicated with you, you know, at this point, then communicate with them back on that same channel where they’ve already started a conversation with you. Now, that doesn’t work. That doesn’t work. You left there a message. You don’t hear back from them yet. You can identify who is this person. Yeah, be proactive about it. Get in touch with them through a phone call, in writing through a letter, or whatever is that you can do. Definitely show interest and concern and good will to try to solve this matter, as you said. Great. So then you can potentially drive things towards a direction where they may even consider revisiting the review.

Grace: [00:33:37] A very important point, right? I mean, because I have seen this happen in restaurants and some other ones where the person responded, you know, the business responded to a negative review, said, I’m sorry you had that experience. How can we make it better then maybe five days later within the same review, the repost or the change from the client that was complaining. I saw another review right after saying they resolved it. They took care of it. I will always go back to them and.

Liel: [00:34:07] Yeah, exactly.

Grace: [00:34:09] Yeah, that’s a big deal.

Liel: [00:34:11] It is. That’s another thing. You also oftentimes see that in Google reviews and of course that there is even a bigger story. And again, it’s not at all about being to have there. Right. So Grace, I think it’s always good. It’s always important to revisit reviews. And this is just Google my business. Of course, we put a lot of weight in it because of the way that it can boost your local presence in Google as a whole. But there are many other platforms. You mentioned a few of them. Maybe Yelp is still important to you. Maybe you’re very Facebook-centered and you want to be a recommending Facebook a lot. So disregarding what platform it is, you definitely need to be listening to what is coming through your reviews and responding. Right. I think that’s something we can all agree.

Liel: [00:34:59] All right, Grace, so thank you very much again for your time. And we’ll have another conversation next week.

Grace: [00:35:06] That’s right.

Liel: [00:35:08] All right, well, thank you very much and have a great rest of your day.

Grace: [00:35:11] You too Liel.

Liel: [00:35:12] If you like our show, make sure you subscribe. Tell your co-workers, leave us a review, and send us your questions to ask@incamerapodcast.com. We’ll see you next week.

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