Pulse of the Profession

Friday Five: How to Manage Negative Comments and Online Reviews

We live in an age where we “post first and ask questions later.” The speed of this social discourse combined with the strength of these messages can mean disaster for some businesses. A single negative review can cripple a local business. For brands of any size it is necessary to become a vigilant watchdog about what’s being written or said about your company or product online. When negative reviews do appear either on a public forum or on a social media platform, brand managers must take that sour lemon and turn it into even sweeter lemonade. Brand managers must learn to turn negative reviews into a strategic play that garners more support from existing brand advocates while simultaneously addressing the negative review.

In this week’s PRSA “Friday Five” post — an analysis of the week’s biggest public relations and business news and commentary — we look at various tips and advice on how to respond to a negative online review. We also look at the reputational issues that come as a result of negative review and discover that some companies are succumbing to paid positive online reviews to bolster their reputation.

How To: Deal with a Disgruntled Customer on Social Media (Business2Community)

In a consumer driven business, B2C contributor Steve Parker, Jr. offers brands tips on how to manage less than flattering reviews that occasionally pop up on Facebook. Here are a few of his suggestions:

  • Answer questions. Responding to your fans on Facebook not only shows the less than satisfied customer that you care about their brand experience but it shows your other fans that your brand cares about addressing customer concerns. Brand responses in turn could help other customers with similar problems.
  • Take it offline. Sometimes Facebook comments become derogatory and unfit for a social platform. Get that customer’s contact information and address the issue one-on-one via email or telephone.
  • Be honest. There is nothing wrong with apologizing if you made a mistake. Fans are more likely to become better invested in a brand that remains accountable and takes responsibility for their actions.

3 Ways to Respond to Negative Commenters Online (Ragan’s PR Daily)

Bloggers know that their opinions are not always accepted by all readers; but what should you do when negative comments inhibit civil discourse or (even worse) scare away readers who want to leave positive feedback? PR Daily’s Brad Phillips recently received similar questions from readers of his blog and offered three ways to handle this issue. Here’s a sample of his advice:

  • Respond but speak past the commenter. Phillips finds that sometimes being the bigger person by posting a negative comment from a reader has its advantages. Personally Phillips sees the benefits of posting a negative comment that makes a valid point…even it conflicts with the premise of his blog post. Further, treating the person who wrote the negative comment with respect may impress the rest of your audience.

Four Common Online Reputation Problems (SpinSucks)

SpinSucks guest blogger Rich Gorman discusses how smaller brands are especially vulnerable to online reputation damage. Gorman suggests that there are two basic routes to combat negative reviews: Better Business Bureau complaints and public relations. The first recommendation involves employing a professional repair service and the second route is DIY reputation management. To help get smaller brands started on either route, Gorman indentifies four common reputation management mistakes that can be minimized to avoid a public relations disaster in the future. Here’s two common blunders, according to Gorman:

  • Lack of awareness. Smaller brands tend to operate under the impression that if they offer an incredible product or service, bad reviews will never be an issue. This is not true. Bad reviews can happen to any business. Prepare yourself and your staff for the possibility and don’t be blindsided.
  • Going social without a strategy. If your company decided that they want to go social, make sure there is a strategy behind social media implementation to keep your company’s messaging consistent. Bad reviews happen in person and online, so have a seasoned professional manage your social reputation to avoid a rookie mistake that could go viral.

5 Tips for Dealing With Negative Reviews Online (SmallBizDaily)

Kent Campbell, founder of InternetReputationManagement.com, has come to the rescue of many small businesses dealing with the ramifications of a negative online review. Campbell tells his clients to not panic and advises them to “take a deep breath and address the issue.” Campbell offers his top five tips for handling negative reviews. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Don’t respond online. Try to divert attention away from the negative review by not adding to the feedback with an evergreen defensive tactic.
  • Don’t call your attorney. Before you make that call decide whether this negative review can be dealt with offline in a non-abrasive discourse. Attorney complaints can find their way online bringing more attention to the original review.

10-15% of Online Reviews Will Be Paid for by Companies in 2013 (TechSpot)

Technology research firm Gartner Inc. recently reported that corporate spending on positive social media reviews will continue to climb by 2014. Paying for positive online reviews presents ethical issues that directly involve the consumer. The first issue is uninformed consumers who go online to look up a review may not be getting the whole story. The second ethical concern has to do with the way the brand goes about incentivizing positive reviews. They may offer anything from coupons to promotional offers that incentivize the consumer to write a good review. The FTC is looking into corporations who might be relying on paid/incentivized a little too much. Cornell researchers are developing automated ways of parsing reviews to identify the fakes.

Nicole Castro is the public relations associate at the Public Relations Society of America.




  • You’re probably not going to start an online journalist union anytime soon, right?  Thanks for telling business not to pay online writers like me. l understand how the pay-to-play model may churn out dishonest fluff, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  You must be from the print world and view online “bloggers” as second-rate-armchair quarterbacks.  Thanks a lot!  It’s because of people like you that I’m starving. 

  • The biggest thing about online reviews is the consumer’s ability to tell fact from fiction. I’ll cite two examples from a leading online review service (here’s a hint…the name starts with “Y” and ends in “P”). Both are from my personal experience.

    In the first I called a service to trim some trees in my yard. For a new vendor of any kind I always get 3-4 bids and research the company online. Most of the companies I researched had maybe 5-10 online reviews of varying satisfaction. But the owner of one company, even after I mentioned that I work in marketing, repeatedly urged me to check out his online reviews. Whereas every other tree service had no or few reviews, this guy’s company had nearly 200 4-star and 5-star reviews! And almost all the negative reviews had some sort of comment from the business owner refuting their statement.

    In the second instance, I called an electric company to have a new breaker box installed. The quote was more than twice as much as what I eventually paid. Other electricians to whom I mentioned this bid were incredulous. That earned a negative review from me. I received dozens of “thumbs up” and emails thanking me for the information. There were many other negative reviews about the same company. A few months later I received a email from a online reputation vendor working on behalf of the electrician; they asked me to take down my review. Since there was no product or service that could be “fixed” or made good, I declined. I wasn’t trying to be malicious, in my mind the company had earned a bad review with poor business practices. Several months later there were still substantial negative reviews, but the company’s review page suddenly exploded with more than 300 4-star and 5-star reviews, almost all thanking an employee by name. Again, most of their competitors had only 5-10 reviews of varying satisfaction.

    In both cases it was obvious that both companies were faking their online reviews. Incidentally, both companies were substantially higher priced than their competitors and had a lot of negative online reviews. I like to think that it was pretty obvious to me because I have 20+ years Ad/PR experience. But at the same time, I’ve always wondered if the average consumer realizes this and know how to differentiate good and fake reviews.

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