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May 22, 2011

One of the big issues facing businesses today, in a world of instant reviews and online blogs, is managing negative publicity. While in the past there may have been only a handful of channels available to reviewers, allowing you to carefully monitor and control your messaging, these days anyone with an internet connection can post whatever they want about your brand, and their posts may find their way to the front page of an important search.

You can do your best to keep publicity positive by treating every job as important, making personal connections with colleagues, and keeping open lines of communication so that you can address problems as they arise and before they are shared with the world. Eventually, however, it is likely you will inadvertently generate negative publicity, and at that point you’ll need to deal with it. By keeping your wits and taking immediate action you can mitigate possible damage.

Keep Initial Exchanges Private

Assuming the negative publicity you’re receiving isn’t obviously just someone lashing out to be negative and get a response, your first step should be to contact the person who wrote about your brand. Keep in mind during your exchanges that you are trying to fix the problem, however, and do not get overly defensive. Generally this first round of exchanges should take place privately.

You want to be able to be honest in your responses, and you want them to feel free to clearly articulate their problems, without giving further fuel to their negative reviews. If they decide to move the conversation into a public forum, such as a comments thread, take extra care to never come across as overly defensive, and if possible try to steer the conversation so that they do not need to further repeat their problems. Keep in mind that any public conversation will also be indexed by search engines, and could exacerbate your negative publicity.

Attempt Reconciliation

Once you have an idea of the underlying issue that provoked the negative publicity, you can make an attempt to remedy the problem. Often people who post negative reviews online are doing so out of a sense of frustration, and the simple act of reaching out to them will be enough for them to feel their complaints have been taken care of.

If you are able to reach an understanding with the other person, such that they feel okay with the situation, the next step is to ask them if they would remove their original negative review, or post a follow-up review. Having negative publicity taken away entirely is of course always preferable, but in cases where that’s not possible, having an immediate follow-up explaining that the situation has been resolved can actually help your brand in the long run. 

If All Else Fails, Bury

If reconciliation is not possible, either because the person is just out to slander you, or because you simply can’t come to an understanding, make efforts to hide their negative comments. By utilizing brand reputation tools you can push negative publicity down search engine results for your name or brand. Although the negative publicity will still exist, its effects will be greatly lessened by the fact that most web users won’t ever see it.


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