As dreadful as the thought may seem, no company is immune from their fair share of bad publicity. While negative attention from customers or the media is unavoidable, it can be contained and reversed if you handle the situation properly. Conversely, taking the wrong approach to a less-than-favorable review or press mention can irreparably damage your company’s reputation.
To help you in this tricky situation, we asked 16 members of Forbes Business Council to share their advice for new entrepreneurs on handling negative reviews or bad company press. They shared their insights below.
1. Don't Take It Personally
Learn from the negative feedback and do not take it too personally. The only way an entrepreneur will evolve is by taking this criticism as a framework for how the company should evolve. Go over all the reviews that people post and don’t let anger take over. Most importantly, apologize for their experience. - Liana Zavo, ZavoMedia Group
2. Hire A Reputation Management Team
I believe it depends on the size of your company. The bigger the operation, the higher the chance of bad press. Firstly, try to avoid bad press by having a consistent client experience. Place a great focus on fulfillment and follow-up. Secondly, have a marketing team that does reputation management for you. - Wes Baiz, Social Scale Media
3. Try To Learn From It
View criticism as constructive and bad company press as insightful. You will be more likely to succeed in business if you can put yourself in the author's perspective to understand why they felt that way, and more importantly, what steps to take so this happens less. This can be by setting forth new guidelines or company values to mitigate the likelihood that this will occur again. - Salvador Ordorica, The Spanish Group LLC
4. Don’t Always Respond
If you spend all your time fighting bad press and bad reviews, you are going to lose time and opportunities that could be used to improve your business. Of course, there are times that you must react to some bad press or reviews, but not always in my opinion. Only respond to bad press and bad reviews if you are sure that it affects your business negatively. - Reza Kamrava, Xicomm LLC
5. Privately Acknowledge The Upset Parties
Don't overreact to it thinking that everybody already knows and cares. Most don't. Try to isolate those who are upset and acknowledge them and their feedback. Do what you can to fix the issue, offer them something for the mixup and make sure it never happens again. Addressing issues a few people had to your entire audience could escalate the problems further. - Michael Graziano, Global Degree Academy Inc.
6. Communicate And Offer A Solution
The key here is always prevention! Many potential bad reviews can be avoided by communicating with a disgruntled client, associate, etc., and offering a way to sort things out. However, when this is not possible, the bad review should be viewed as an opportunity for the company to learn from its mistakes and therefore improve from there on out. - Oksana Kolesnikova, Oksana Franchising International, Inc.
7. Make Actionable Goals To Improve
Any feedback, no matter how negative, means someone is passionate enough to take time out of their day for you. Take that as a compliment and make actionable goals to improve and turn that negative experience into a positive one for the future. - Joseph Bisaillon, eNotaryLog, LLC
8. Own Up To The Problem
Be authentic and have integrity. If bad press is warranted, then own up to it and provide a feasible plan to rectify. People will have nothing else to say about you if you own it and come up with a plan to fix the problem. After all, we are all humans. However, if the press is not warranted, then stand up for yourself. People will see reason and appreciate you taking a stand for yourself. - Wilson K Lee, Profitable Restaurant Owner Academy
9. View It As An Opportunity To Build Loyalty
I honestly love getting bad reviews. While we always strive to be the best, there is no better way to know your company than by knowing where you're falling down. Take each bad review as an opportunity to build a loyal customer. Go out of your way to not only solve that client's issue but turn them into an advocate. Stick with this approach and watch your brand loyalty grow. - Neil Khaund, Livius Tutoring
10. Share It Internally
Acknowledge the coverage, but do not accept it as accurate if it is not. Share it internally as a motivational tool. In some instances, it may be prudent to contact the journalist or publication directly to “review” their review and determine if some further action or discussion is worthwhile. - Bob Conlin, NAVEX Global
11. Leave The Response To A PR Professional
They say any press is good press, even if it's not completely accurate. Bad reviews or bad press should be handled by a professional in the public relations space. Reacting impulsively or being defensive is never a good strategy. The cost of the professional advice will pay for itself. - Paul Schaus, CCG Catalyst Consulting
12. Look For The Lesson
Respond if you feel it's appropriate and you feel the response will balance the statement. If there is a lesson to be learned, do not waste the lesson and take it on board to move your business forward. Sometimes no response is the right way to go—just let it go and do not let it dent your confidence or self-belief. - Bernadette Barber, Zero2 Project Consultants Ltd
13. Study What Went Wrong
Unexpected bad press will always take you by surprise. Instead of focusing on the negative, study what went wrong and create a proactive policy of changes. It may be necessary to completely revamp how you do business or how communications are handled. At the minimum, it should be viewed as a stepping stone to improve things moving forward. - Antoine Tardif, Unite.AI
14. Issue A Clear, Concise Message
When you receive bad press, whether warranted or not, you must own it. Everyone makes mistakes, but people want to see that you are accountable for your errors. The worst thing you can do is try to maneuver around the issue. Be clear in your message, concise in your apology and concrete in your plan to remedy the issue at hand. In this way, you could potentially turn a negative into a positive! - Adam Jacobs, Fortis Fitness & YOGALUX
15. Always Respond Professionally
Every bad review is a marketing opportunity. Although no one enjoys getting one, your business should always respond in a professional manner. Shoppers specifically look for bad reviews to see the worst that can happen. By responding effectively, your business shows how you handle crises and can set reasonable expectations. - Nathan Mayfield, ResNexus
16. Address It Head-On
Deal with it head-on, but with authenticity. Bad things will happen, and how you handle it will be a test of the leader and the organization. Be honest and authentic. Saying sorry is completely OK. For example, we had one employee write an unfortunate review. I did not realize that he felt that way, so I called him up and personally said sorry. That was all that was needed to make it right. - Satyam Kantamneni, UXReactor
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