What We Can Learn About Taking Criticism & Reputation Management

Sometimes, the blogosphere feels like a small place that is relaxed and almost too casual. As a regular reader/blogger you might feel the need to respond immediately to criticism. But as a owner or manager, you have to think about how your words will reflect upon your brand or company that you represent. There is no exact science in how you should respond to “negative” comments you come across and there might not even be a need to respond sometimes.

What brings me to this point is some comments in this article about ranking decreases on Search Engine Journal. (Interesting and valuable read, I might add.) A self-proclaimed SEO at JCPenney made some comments and you can read them for yourself – was this really necessary over 1 year after the “event” had taken place. I know this wasn’t an official statement but it seemed off-putting to me. For those of you who are fuzzy about JCPenney’s run in with Google’s penalization, this may refresh your memory.

Anyways, here are some takeaways from that are inspired by this dialogue and others like it:

1) Don’t appear so defensive – This is something that we all see so often. Many people feel the need to come out with fists flying and like they are so offended that they have to put up a defensive barrier. Even though a timely response is seen as a good thing, it doesn’t help to post an emotionally charged response without thinking things through. This might be ok for flame wars or YouTube comments but not if you’re representing or associated with a company. What’s even worse… immediately deleting a negative comment.

2) Don’t change the subject and bringing up other irrelevant topics – Another thing that is common is to try to shift the focus and somehow turn the blame on the comment/commenter. When this occurs, with especially a valid point, it makes your company seem less credible and trustworthy. This reminds me of a client who got a negative comment and responded by shifting the blame on a name mix-up! As in… “It wasn’t us! It was someone who went by a similar name who happens to be in the same area…” Regardless of the situation, it’s important to present a calm response and take the conversation off a public forum. Reputation management should not consist of the blame game or being so eager to teach a lesson to people who don’t agree with you.

3) Don’t not provide a solution – One thing I don’t get is when responses don’t provide a solution. While you could go back and forth on criticism made, it doesn’t help to bring up the past and not show what you are doing to improve the situation. This is what effective reputation management is all about, going forward and focusing on the good that the company can provide.

4) Be positive and useful – Sometimes, things just come across more cold and unfriendly in text. This isn’t to say that you should be overly enthusiastic but you should be mindful of how your responses are read and if it’s easy for an angry or sarcastic tone can be applied to what you wrote. If someone has an opposing view, you can respond with your side of the story and facts to back it up. It’s not as simple as just telling them that they are wrong or that they don’t know the whole story without presenting any credible proof – especially if you’re focused on maintaining a company’s integrity and image after a mishap.

This post isn’t about ragging on jcp, as it’s just small example of many situations. It’s a difficult position to be in to respond to negative comments and we can all learn from these and be prepared. If you have any other thoughts on responding to negative comments and such, it would be great to hear it.

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