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?

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich