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The News Chair

How to Navigate Social Negativity



It’s something most of us have dealt with at one time or another — negative coverage about you and your business. But how do you respond, particularly when it relates to social media? Or do you respond at all?


Tiffany Whisner

Tiffany Whisner

How you and your company handle negative posts and comments on social media can determine the future of your business and its reputation.


Think before you tweet

Maybe you posted a comment on your social media profile without really thinking how offensive it was. Take former PR executive Justine Sacco for example. Her thoughtless tweet about AIDS in Africa cost Sacco her job.


As stated in a CNN article, “The incident was a glaring reminder that every word uttered on the Internet can be heard by seemingly everyone on the Internet, sometimes with serious consequences.”


Maybe you had really … REALLY … bad timing. After the tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon, cooking site Epicurious promoted some recipes on Twitter. “In honor of Boston and New England, may we suggest: whole-grain cranberry scones!” Needless to say, the line was crossed.


Then there’s just bad planning. Home Depot posted a tweet to promote College GameDay. It didn’t take long for the Twitterverse to note the extremely offensive — and racist — tweet, which said, “Which drummer is not like the others?” “Ignorant oversight or not,” said a Digiday article, “brands should know by now that they should avoid ever tweeting anything that has even the slightest chance of being interpreted as racist.”


Handling the negativity

Justine Sacco apologized in a written statement and deleted her Twitter account. Epicurious removed the offensive tweet but then went days without tweeting. Home Depot deleted the tweet, called it “stupid” and apologized.


How should your business respond without letting the negative situation get out of control? Here are tips from Dorothy Crenshaw at PR Daily:

  1. Do respond. Often, a lack of response is seen as a validation of the criticisms or, at best, an information vacuum. The sooner the response, the easier it will be to control the situation.
  2. Don’t dignify baseless rumors. One exception to the above is the case of an unsubstantiated rumor, where you risk calling more attention to it by responding.
  3. Let your advocates defend you. If you have trusted clients or customers willing to comment in your defense, let them. The essence of reputation is what others say about you in public.
  4. Don’t overreact. It’s natural to feel emotional or defensive when attacked. If you can’t be objective, seek objective advice.
  5. Ask for equal time. Most legitimate websites or news sources will give you the opportunity to respond to a questionable story or comment. Where details are wrong, your smartest approach is to calmly insist on your right to set the record straight.
  6. Use objective facts and figures. A convincing response usually involves statistics or objective facts and cites sources. Where possible, quote third parties.
  7. If you’re at fault, apologize. If your company made a mistake, admit it and offer a prompt, sincere apology. Take responsibility. Then, take steps to fix the situation or make amends.
  8. Look for the opportunities. Public criticism can be a gift in disguise. Think about whether it could be an opportunity to remedy a problem or improve your business.


Accentuate the positive
“Negative reviews can function as a modern-day comment box and provide you with valuable information and insight on how you can improve,” said Matthew Peneycad of RGB Social.


And leaving negative comments, instead of deleting them, shows your company’s willingness to be transparent with consumers. This will lead to increased trust, a more legitimate brand and a more loyal following in the future.



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