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What can you REALLY do about negative online reviews?

By Lisa Goldsberry

32820117_sUse PR tools and tactics to fight back the right way

You Google your company name and one of the first things you find is a scathing review written by a disgruntled customer. Before you go into panic mode, stop and think.

For many people, the initial reaction is to strike back, maybe with a reply accusing the customer of not using the product properly. There are right ways and wrong (reputation-damaging) ways to respond to negative online reviews, and PR can serve as your guide.

Can you get the comment deleted (and should you)?

It’s natural to want to have the disparaging comments removed as soon as possible. You could waste time contacting the site administrator and demanding that it be deleted or that the poster be blocked from commenting in the future, but there’s a better way to handle it: PR.

Instead, address the problem head-on. Find out what you can do to rectify the situation for the customer. You may need to work out the details privately with the customer offline. Then respond when it’s fixed and explain how it was done. This way, you may win back the customer and maybe gain a few more once consumers realize that yours is a company that cares about its customers.

What can you do if the comments are completely untrue?

Regrettably, not all reviewers are honest in their comments; they could be just venting or trying to cause major damage to a company for some minor slight. Other times, it could be your competition posting fake negative reviews about your company in the hopes of raising their own standing.

In any case, don’t just ignore outright lies; let PR show you how to take care of it. For instance, some review sites have a process for companies to dispute the offending post. When you do this, remember to be polite, respectful and non-threatening. Unfortunately, sites like Yelp and Angie’s List don’t allow such input from companies.

You can’t get the negative comments removed. Now what?

If the negative postings appear on a site that doesn’t permit you to have them removed, then you’ll have to accept that it’s out there on the Internet, ostensibly forever. However, that doesn’t mean you’re out of options. Focus your energy on the positive aspects of your business. PR can demonstrate why sometimes the best defense is a good offense.

One way to combat negative reviews is to generate more positive comments. This may make the one unhappy customer look more like an exception than the norm. When consumers are in the consideration stage of the sales cycle, being able to find positive reviews about your company is vital. Some of the methods for doing this include:

  • Reminding your customers to post reviews and to like you on social media sites
    Many customers simply don’t think about making comments for good service.

  • Contacting customers who are already fans of your company
    You can find them among those who post favorable comments or mention you on blogs about your industry. Engage them by offering information and access, which may garner some positive coverage.

  • Encouraging employees to write reviews
    In most cases, they are also customers, so they’re in a great position to help you tell your story.

Can you handle all this alone?

Thankfully, you don’t have to. A high-quality PR firm can help you find positive things to say about your company and get your messages distributed on the right platforms.

Here at Axia, we specialize in reputation management and will help you develop a comprehensive strategy to protect and defend your brand. Download our Online Reputation Management e-book or contact us today to learn how we can help maintain your good name.

Lisa Goldsberry is a writer for Axia Public Relations with more than 15 years of public relations experience. She specializes in business, higher education and technology PR. Connect with Axia Public Relations on Twitter @axiapr.

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Topics: public relations, shared media

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