Online Brand Damage Control

Ouch, that hurt!

The simple fact is, that online, you cannot stop harmful feedback from occurring, and much of the negative feedback that occurs is not intended to be malicious, although it might be unpalatable and ultimately damaging if it’s in large enough volume.

However, you can control how you respond to it and this can help you to turn the situation into an advantage or escalate it into something much worse.

These tips are designed to offer some guidance if you find yourself needing to respond to negative or damaging online content.

Tip 1: Sometimes Ignoring Negative Content Is Better.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion. At the same time, of course, you are entitled to disagree with it. And not every piece of negative feedback requires a response from you.

If you are unsure whether to ignore or react, wait to see what other participants say. Often, one participant will post a negative remark, but a dozen others will stick up for you, negating the urgency for you to get involved.

If something looks like it’s going to get viral, or gets traction in mainstream media, you must act. You cannot hide under the cone of silence.

Tip 2: In A Major Incident, Be Seen & Heard Immediately.

Let’s say the issue is a major incident, like an airline accident.
You have to be on the front foot immediately.
The head of the organisation needs to be seen, be human and the business must issue an immediate official statement.
You need to take control of the message.
You cannot say nothing. Your brand might survive silence, but it will never truly recover from it.

Tip 3: Be Nice, Genuine And Professional.

If the criticism has merit, by agreeing to address the problem, you may have the opportunity to turn an angry customer into a loyal brand champion.

  • Focus on the issue, not the person.
  • Avoid sounding defensive or aggressive.
  • You can address damaging content in the site where it was placed or link to your own site for your response.


Tip 4: Outrank The Negative Content.

The success of this strategy is dependent on the originating site of the negative commentary – and how strongly that site ranks. This strategy should also be deployed proactively.

Tip 5: Lawyers, the last resort, not the first.

Deploying lawyers is an intimidation tactic which you should use with great care since this might spectacularly backfire and turn your online critic into an online martyr.

You need to be very careful you’re not seen to be a bully (a perception that will damage your brand more extensively than any online critic is likely to do).

Final Thoughts

Online reputation management is an emerging discipline within Public Relations.
Often brands and businesses are burned while fighting a fire because they haven’t built up their brand defences.
It’s always a good investment to add public relations to your marketing mix so that you can build brand resilience if ever you need it.
As my friend Jenny always says (and it works), the best way to deal with someone who doesn’t like you is to tip a bucket of kindness over their head.
I don’t recommend ice water in this instance.
Good luck.

Want more?

Check out more of my posts on brand and reputation management.


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