Tips for Handling and Preventing Negative Online PR

by Michelle Salater on January 20, 2011


Yesterday’s blog post, The Complaint Heard Around the World: An Online PR Nightmare, focused on the negative effects customer complaints could have on your business when they are posted to Facebook, Twitter, and other viral social media platforms. If you missed this post, check it out by clicking here.

For advice on how to prevent and handle negative online PR, view our tips below:

Preventative Tips

Always be active on social media and responsive: If you’re not where your customers are online then you won’t be able to handle a complaint quickly and efficiently. If you are where your customers are online, you can immediately address their concerns in real-time and stop the complaint from spreading or becoming worse. When unhappy customers go unanswered, it’s likely that they’ll become even more frustrated.

Offer your assistance and solutions if you do happen to come across a negative comment, acknowledge poor decisions your business may have made, and show customers—and in turn, their followers—that you care about their concerns.

When you’re available to talk and are understanding of the problems your customers are facing, this illustrates that you care about your consumers and want them to be happy. It’s usually when a company doesn’t respond to a complaint that consumers get flustered and spread their complaints online to friends.

If you’re unsure of how to search for conversations around your business or industry, here are two online tracking tools to help you pinpoint these conversations:

1. Collecta: This real-time search tracking tool pulls up live feed of any keyword or phrase you choose. For example, if you wanted to find conversations around your company, you can enter your company name into the Collecta search engine box. Social objects such as blog posts, comments, tweets, Facebook posts, and YouTube videos will pull up in the results section. You may then visit these related topics of conversation to see how consumers are speaking about your business.

2. Brandwatch: Brandwatch works to track conversations in the blogosphere and other online media platforms, and provides simple and easy-to-read charts to illustrate online success and exposure.

When you know exactly where a discussion is occurring around your business, you can be present there and offer your solutions and assistance.

Have an email address that individuals can send complaints / compliments to: Provide customers with more than one way to contact you. You’re not only making their life easier by catering to their specific communication preferences, but you’re also providing additional outlets, aside from social media, for customers to make their complaints on.

Consumers might not feel comfortable complaining to your company via phone. If talking to your company on the phone is their only option, they may venture to the social media sphere to vent their anger.

Handling Tips

Don’t act like it didn’t happen: Don’t ignore negative online PR—it could lead to an even bigger disaster.

If your company is at fault for an unhappy customer, admit it. Nothing looks worse to consumers than a company that can’t admit they’re wrong. When you are in denial of company mishaps, you instill fear on consumers and decrease their chances of purchasing from you.

For example, if your friend employs a cell phone service that continually sends the individual the wrong bill, and then doesn’t admit to their faults, why would you take the risk of employing this same service and being slammed with a bill that isn’t even yours? You wouldn’t take that risk.

If this same cell phone company admitted to and apologized for their faults, and offered free services to your friend, you might be more inclined to purchase from them, knowing that you would be in good hands, even if the company were to make a mistake.

Always handle a situation perfectly on the phone or via email: If customers do happen to call you or email you, always take this opportunity to fix the problem immediately. When you leave an already frustrated customer even more unsatisfied after they’ve spoken with you, the risk of these customers going online to vent their anger is fairly high.

Give consumers what they want when they call the first time to complain. Offer your apologies and give them a solution and free gift / product to make up for the slip-up. It’s much harder to gain new customers than it is to keep loyal customers. Always show your loyal customers that you care about their needs and are grateful for their business. If you lose your previous clients, you’ll have to work extra hard to find new ones.

How do you prevent and / or handle negative online PR? We’d love to hear from you in our comments section.


If you like this post, you might also like:

  1. The Complaint Heard Around the World: An Online PR Nightmare
  2. Are You Preventing Your Business From Growing to Its Full Potential?
  3. 5 Tips for Building Online Relationships That Last
  4. Tips to Increase Conversion This Holiday Season
  5. 2010 Holiday Online Purchasing Statistics
  • Sal Vilardo

    I think it is EXTREMELY important to almost overkill the resolution. My goal, in my own business, is to give people a story to tell others – after all, WOM is the best form of advertising. If you can turn your customer’s negative experience into something over-the-top positive, you have just pulled them into your story.

    It is one thing to have a customer talk about you when things are going great, but a whole different ball game for them to have the ammo to defend you when things go downhill. The only catch is…you are the one that has to provide the ammo.

  • webcopywriter

    Sal, I love your point-of-view and wholeheartedly agree. I’ve had bad experiences with companies before–who hasn’t? But when I am compensated for my frustration and for the mistakes that those companies have made, I am delighted to work with them again and share my experiences. It’s when a company doesn’t acknowledge their mistakes that I won’t purchase from them again.

  • Tweets that mention Online PR: How to Handle and Prevent Negative PR —

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Paul Joseph, Sal Vilardo. Sal Vilardo said: Tips for Handling and Preventing Negative Online PR – Is bad press still good press? (via @WrittenbySumer ) [...]

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