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Dealing with external criticism: A concise guide

By Axia Public Relations

You can manage inaccuracies about your brand


Dealing with external criticism: A concise guideWhether or not we notice, people observe how we deal with complaints about us. Our response speaks volumes. And this is the case not just in regular life but in companies as well, whether the complaints are made in person or online.


When responding to complaints, you must be careful not to go with guns blazing; you don’t have to keep mum either. This is because you could seem desperate to hide something, and thus, misinformation about your brand would be seen as true.


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Keep in mind that untruths are refined weapons for brand destruction. It behooves brands’ PR teams to deal with such external criticisms with tact and respect. Sometimes, these complaints could come from a genuine point of human need.


Dealing with the criticism helps address the need and defuse a time bomb. Let’s discuss the steps as identified by Lauren Lawson-Zilai, senior director of PR for Goodwill, during a Ragan training session.


Steps on dealing with external complaints and criticisms

  1. Be sure you understand what the complaint is about. This means going through the complaint multiple times to make sure you understand the customer’s frustration. Don’t rush to give a response; you might end up in a ditch.
  2. Show appreciation to whoever lodged the complaint. While it might not seem like it, genuine complaints can uncover a defect in your brand’s product or service. It’s a display of commitment to your brand, though they might be wrapped in fuss and words of dissatisfaction. Don’t rush to give an angry reply; instead, express your gratitude first. 
  3. Handle the incorrect information. This is the next step when dealing with external criticism. As nice as you are, you’re obligated to correct any inaccuracy, otherwise, your brand will suffer. As long as you’re respectful about it, you’re on the right track.
  4. Provide an avenue for further inquiry. The complaint needs to be deliberated upon more should the need arise, so an accessible and responsive follow-up path is a must. 
  5. Limit your response to a maximum of three times if it’s coming from the same person. Publicly address the issue initially, and then continue addressing it privately. However, if you find that the one making the complaint is only desperate for attention, do well to block them.


Additionally, it helps to arm your employees with information on how to deal with negative comments and misinformation. Such resources are essential for employees at the various levels of the organization.


Apply this guide from Ragan’s PR Daily on dealing with external criticism to prevent the spread of misinformation about your brand. It will also prevent the situation from being escalated. 


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Photo by Yan Krukov from Pexels

Topics: PR tips, reputation management

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