Online Reputation Management: How to Handle Negative Publicity

Alyssa Gregory

broken-glassIdeally, with every project you take on and every relationship you form, you will be working toward building a professional reputation. You can enhance the effectiveness of a positive reputation by:

  • Doing great work
  • Being customer service oriented
  • Making yourself approachable
  • Collaborating with others in your industry
  • Forming personal relationships

But even if you do everything right, there may come a time when you face negative publicity. Harmful feedback can happen for many reasons – a misunderstanding, a wrong doing on your part, varying points of view, or any number of other reasons that you may not understand fully.

How you react to negative feedback is dependent on the type of comment, who said it, what forum it was said in, and the potential it has to damage your reputation. But there are general some ways to gauge the risk of negative publicity and determine how best to handle it.

Think It Through

We’re human, so our initial reaction to a negative comment is usually anger, belligerence, and/or defensiveness. The worst thing you can do is react quickly without thinking the situation through because you may only make the situation worse. Put yourself in the other person’s position, and be honest with yourself. Take a deep breath and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the comment true?
  • Can I see how this person could view my actions this way?
  • Did I do something that was misunderstood or misconstrued?
  • Am I in the wrong?

Many times, you probably didn’t see the negative feedback coming, so you have surprise working against you. By taking the time to be honest with yourself about the situation, you can avoid doing further damage. You may even want to ask a trusted friend or colleague for their take on the situation to help you get perspective.

Respond or Not?

Not every negative comment deserves a response. In fact, you may decide not to respond because you feel the situation is best simply ignored. If the impact is minimal, don’t fuel the fire by pleading your case when it’s not necessary.

In some cases, you may want to go to the source and try to work it out offline. A personal conversation may uncover information you would not have otherwise known. If you were in the wrong, you can rectify the situation, and ask the author to publicly retract their comment or provide further information that defrays some of the impact. And you never know, this unfortunate situation may be the catalyst for a new relationship with a lot of potential.

You can also respond by posting a public comment or publishing an acknowledgment letter on your own website or blog addressing the situation and providing your own perspective. However, be sure not to be overly defensive or personally attack the other party; that will only make you look unprofessional.

Use It To Your Advantage

The saying, “All publicity is good publicity,” may not be entirely accurate, but you can certainly turn some negative situations into positive events. Negative publicity can give you the opportunity to right a wrong; it can provide a platform for you to address an issue; and it can make you better at what you do.

Keep in mind that whatever method you choose to handle the situation, you cannot change the actions of others. Handle the situation as you think is best, but don’t be pulled off-track by the negativity of others.

Have you ever dealt with negative publicity? How did you handle the situation?

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Image credit: Kat Jackson