Gini Dietrich

Crisis: Dealing With Negative Comments Online

By: Gini Dietrich | February 1, 2010 | 
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Last week, I was talking to my friend, and client, Lorri Wyndham about negative comments online. It was a timely conversation because, when I speak, at least one person asks me what happens when someone says something negative about them or the company online.

I like to use the story from when I first began speaking. Someone in the audience really pushed back on me and said, “So you are telling me that if I give someone a bad review, he’s going to go put it on Facebook?” Yes, that’s exactly what I’m telling you. Except it’s not going to start happening, just because I’ve opened your eyes to it…it’s been happening. And it’s really not any different than before social media. Before, that person would badmouth his boss to his friends and family via the phone. Now, though, his circle of influence is thousands, instead of a handful, of people. But, unlike before social media, you now know that employee is badmouthing you on Facebook because you are monitoring online conversations and can see what he’s saying.

So, Lorri said to me, what do we do when the negative happens?

I like to approach negative comments just like I would a crisis, in the traditional sense. The three R’s of crisis are: Reflect, respond, and recover.

Reflect. Read what the person is saying. Keep an open mind. Think about his/her side of things. Consider what, if any, changes you can promise once you respond.

Respond. Engage the person online, at first. Let your community see that you are responding and that you are open to not only listening, but to changing practice, based on this person’s negative comments. Then take the conversation offline, either via phone or email.

Recover. Once resolved (either with an action plan or you might come to an impasse), bring the conversation  back online.

My friend Blair Minton owns affordable assisted living homes in Illinois and Indiana. A couple of months ago, we were at a board meeting in Washington, DC and looking at his company’s Facebook fan page. A few hours earlier, a woman had posted that her mother had had a bad experience in one of their home’s hair salons. Blair immediately responded how sorry he was on the Facebook wall and welcomed her to contact him, offline.  She did and they resolved the issue. Then she went back to the fan page and posted how great the Heritage Woods CEO is and what a pleasure it is to have her mom in one of their homes because of his responsiveness.

The point is to be completely transparent and honest. In this instance, they did not come to an impasse, but that does happen. Communicate the impasse, should it happen. Let your community know what you’ve done. Make a record of it. And be consistent. The only way to be “rid” of a negative comment is to either create a brand ambassador out of the person or apologize, recover, and consistently communicate online with transparency and honesty.

How do you deal with negative comments?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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23 Comments on "Crisis: Dealing With Negative Comments Online"

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Greg Wood
6 years 3 months ago

Ginny – great post. Not responding is the worst thing companies can do. People just want to be heard and companies biggest haters can become the companies biggest advocates if a company listens and responds. Every customer wants to feel important and responding to posts is an easy way do that.

Laura Scholz
6 years 3 months ago

Great post, Gini. I needed this one today. And this advice applies in personal situations as well as professional ones.

Lyn Lomasi
6 years 3 months ago

This is excellent advice. Some companies shy away from publicly responding to these things and that can sometimes do more harm than good. I believe online communication should be valued just as much as face-to-face. If someone were to come to a business with negative thoughts face-to-face vs on a facebook wall, would the manager, owner, etc just stare at them blankly? A response is always good. I like how you applied the three R’s.

trackback
6 years 3 months ago

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by ginidietrich: Tips for dealing with negative comments online http://su.pr/2PZSO7

Ben Pfutzenreuter
6 years 3 months ago

Great post, I think social media as a crisis itself, and its roll during a crisis is something that needs further examination. Given that the internet creates communication on steroids, the rate at which a minor problem can translate to a serious crisis is astounding.

I agree that if social media is about creating two way communications, one of the best ways to use the medium is to provide genuine feedback and clearly articulate real attempts to solve the problem. If you do that, I think some degree of good can come from any problem.

Gregg Gregory, CSP
6 years 3 months ago

WOW – how spot on is this? Image is everything everywhere, and this clearly illustrates two key points: First is the fact that service recovery is a powerful tool. Secondly, the image that is repaired does not just work for us as an individual – it is also works wonderfully for our entire organization. When we can have everyone on our team on the same page delivering the same message responding in the same manner then our image is consistent and POWERFUL.

Deb Evans
6 years 3 months ago

What amazes me is how many people still believe social media is a fad. A negative comment online just might be what it takes to convince them that it is not and they better participate now!

Yesterday I received a negative email from a franchisee. I wanted to jump right on it and respond with a message why he is totally wrong. I didn’t. I could say I was reflecting but actually I was just stalling. This morning I followed your 3 Rs and spent time reflecting. Now I am ready to respond calmly and hopefully we’ll recover.

Thanks!

Andy Donovan
6 years 3 months ago

Sage words of advice my dear friend – especially when you take the time to reflect upon why you are receiving negative comments in the first place. I especially enjoy the concept of the “open mind” and ensuring that you are actually reading what the people are saying or trying to tell you. Most times it is not the message but the delivery so time of reflection can certainly help address that issue. Great post. Andy

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich
6 years 3 months ago
Greg – As you well know, from your CVS incident, not responding is almost worse than the negative comments. Look what happened to Dominos last year…and they responded; it just took them a few days. Laura – It ABSOLUTELY works in personal situations. I like to say, “I hear you. I need some time to think. I will get back to you soon.” And then I do. Lyn – LOVE that analogy! I’m stealing it. Thank you! Ben – Right on! People just want to know they’re being heard…even if it’s just to hear “I’m sorry.” Gregg – I love… Read more »
PRCAI (prcai online)
6 years 3 months ago

Crisis: Dealing With Negative Comments Online http://tinyurl.com/ykzjb2a via @ginidietrich

Nick
6 years 3 months ago
Great post Gini, One of the things that agitates me the most is when a company messed up or I need something fixed, and I was brushed aside or on hold for 2 hours and hung up on my a phone system or a CSR going to lunch. Not only did I leave negative comments, but I used Twitter which can multiply that by 10K. As a business owner, one of the things I said to myself is that I am going to treat every customer like I would want to be treated and I myself am very picky. If… Read more »
Ashley
6 years 3 months ago
Great post, indeed! When I first suggested the thought of social media to my company, they were apprehensive for this fact alone. With social media, there is a certain level of vulnerability that comes with participating. But, like you mentioned, these conversations were going on long before Facebook and Twitter, and will continue regardless if you’re involved on the space or not. The key is to listen to what people are saying—chances are there is an opportunity to improve. We had a consumer point out a flaw in our packaging and posted a YouTube video describing his disappointment. We chatted… Read more »
Kat Jaibur
6 years 3 months ago
Excellent tips, once again, Gini. It all comes down to this: People want to be heard. And they want satisfaction. To Lyn’s point, I actually have had experiences where I’ve complained face-to-face and had a manager say, “Well, I’ll talk to so-and-so and get their side of the story.” Excuse me? I’m not looking for a referee. I’m looking for good customer service. If you’re not delivering it, I’ll go elsewhere. I LOVE how Blair Minton dealt with the complaint about his asst. living facility. If he had one near me, it would be the first place I’d look into… Read more »
Daniel Hindin
6 years 3 months ago
This is a very important issue to address, Gini. The key point is that you, as a business, should WANT to hear as much of any negative feedback out there as possible. You will make mistakes. People will be dissatisfied. These are facts of life in running a business. What’s important is that you allow yourself to stand accountable for any problems your customers might have. Even if the problem stems from something completely out of your power, you NEED to know about it so you can fix what needs to be fixed or make sure your customer is at… Read more »
Jason Verhoosky
Jason Verhoosky
6 years 3 months ago

Great work Gini! This is a great guide to crisis, negative comments, and people skills in general! Be transparent, be honest, and work with people to promote and protect your brand.

Davina K. Brewer
6 years 3 months ago
Negative comments are going to happen, period. Only a matter of when. It’s how a company deals with the negative that matters most. Look at what Toyota is trying to do now: full page ads with “letters to customers” and press tours, keeping service departments open longer. As opposed to my dry cleaner, who ruined a sweater and STILL has not done anything to correct the problem (won’t get my business ever again). Going to give you some more Rs: Research and Relay. Research the complaint before reacting/responding, so you have all the facts. That way you’re better able to… Read more »
Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich
6 years 3 months ago
Nick – Did you really just post a serious comment? You’re absolutely right – if someone says something negative about us, we listen and figure out what to do differently next time. Oh wait. No one says anything bad about us. Never mind. Ashley – Thank you for sharing your own experience! This is a great case study for everyone to take note. Kat – Send your mom to me. Blair and I will take care of her. Dan – Such a great, great point! We should all get to the point that we’re scared companies are not telling us… Read more »
JasonVerhoosky (Jason Verhoosky)

For all those who attended CADCA #Forum2010some a great bit on managing crisis via. online comments (via @ginidietrich) http://bit.ly/b8Jj4N

Zerna
Zerna
5 years 8 months ago

I know that this is a late response, but I wanted to commend you on this article. I also wanted to give a shout out for Greg Evans of National Cyber Security because he has been and still is a prime target for negative comments. However, he is still going strong. For all those entrepreneurs who have had the same experience, fight back just like Mr. Evans is doing. This very informative and resourceful article really promotes peace in many ways.

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