A number of years ago, I discovered the benefits of on-line PR as a way of extending exposure for my clients. In addition to submission to established news sites, I created my own site – Indy-Biz, as a way of sharing good news stories about clients, friends and the local biz community.
For more than two years the site has been a win-win-win. Everything was great, till yesterday, when a very unhappy individual posted a really negative comment. The comment was in response to a story about a local business, run by a good friend of mine.
As I reviewed the comment, I wasn't sure what to do. What I really wanted to do, was delete the comment. How dare he say that about my friend? But deleting the comment would have violated the trust I have built with my readers. And if he was really annoyed, he would have just posted the comment somewhere else on the net.
Instead, I posted a response, disagreeing with what he had written, and gave my friend a “heads up'. She asked a several other people in the community to post comments. Then she added her reply, encouraging the unhappy individual to contact her directly, acknowleging the phone number in the original press release was wrong.
In the end, this was a great case study in how companies should use social media to manage their online brand and reputation. You cannot prevent or control negative comments. They will exist. But if you have an army of loyal fans, they will spring to your defense, and help you manage the situation. In addition, instead of hiding in the sand, proactively reaching out to unhappy customers or critics in a public forum, will strengthen your reputation overall.