A positive response to negative word of mouth -By Andy Sernovitz

A positive response to negative word of mouth -By Andy Sernovitz

  • 30 April 2007

Expert: Andy Sernovitz, WordofMouthBook.com

#30 of 30

  

About the Expert

Andy Sernovitz is author of the book "Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking", and is the guru of the word of mouth marketing business. He is teaching the first graduate class in word of mouth marketing at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism. A 16-year veteran of the interactive marketing business, Andy has spent years helping companies learn how to do better marketing. Andy taught entrepreneurship at the Wharton School of Business, ran a business incubator, and started half a dozen companies. GasPedal, his consulting company, advises great brands like TiVo, Ralph Lauren, Sprint, and Kimberly-Clark. He created the Word of Mouth Marketing Association around the latest revolutions in blogs, buzz, and word of mouth. Before that, in the dot com days, he ran the Association for Interactive Marketing. Andy sends out an amazing newsletter called "Damn, I Wish I'd Thought of That," which you can get at www.gaspedal.com

We've all had to deal with negative blog posts about us, our companies, or causes we believe in. It's hard to ignore ... and it's even harder to resist getting into an all-out battle of the bloggers. Try to resist the temptation to get drawn into a fight. As they say "Never pick a fight with anyone who buys ink by the barrel." You can't win a fight on someone else's blog - they will always get the last word. But you can do a few reasonable things to calm things down, and get your side of the story out there. What you can do is participate, earn respect, and tell your story. Jump in, join the conversation, and be a part of it. You can make sure that the conversation ends on a positive note, that your views are heard, and that you're part of the community. Working with bloggers is hard for many PR-trained executives because of the inherent lack of control over the situation. It's about learning to respond and participate instead of plant and initiate. It's no longer about managing what other people say, but letting your own words speak for themselves. And it's about earning respect (but not necessarily agreement) from bloggers by showing you know how to participate the right way.

Five steps to dealing with negative blog posts

1. Listen carefully. Every day you should be searching for your name, company, and products on the blog search engines. You should always know what is being said about your company, and never get caught by surprise. Stay in the loop, because it's too late to respond to a post that you discover weeks after it appears.

2. Participate. Nothing earns more credibility with bloggers than a company that is part of the blog community. Blog. Comment. Converse. Don't be a stranger. Become part of the community. It's too late if you aren't already blogging when a negative attack happens. You can't earn respect after you need it ... you need to earn it up front, and build a storehouse of good will.

3. Show that you are listening. Many bloggers are (pleasantly) shocked when they find out that a company is actually reading what they write. Post a note when you read something you like. Post replies and comments when you see unfair criticism. Post an offer of help when you hear a complaint. Always identify your affiliation with your company, and offer to solve any problems. In many, many cases, this is the most important thing you can do.

4. Convert critics when you can. You can't make all people happy all time, but you sure can try. Work your butt off to find ways to make people happy. You should be doing this for all customers, but you should work extra hard to help bloggers. There is a double payoff here: First, you'll have the story of a happy resolution as the most recent post on the blogs. Second, much research shows that converted critics are the most enthusiastic fans.

5. Write for the record. In the end, don't expect to win every point in every blog debate. It's not possible. What you can do, however, is tell your side of the story. Post comments or entries in your own blog for posterity. Remember the permanent record, and write what you want history to see. And then ... move on. Once you've made a genuine attempt to resolve a problem, and after you've told your side of the story, it's time to let it go. You've done all you can, and anything else will just drive more traffic to the negative post.

The Bottom Line If you want a good rep in the blogosphere, you need to be good. Genuinely good. Your reputation is the amount of respect you earn, less the number of people you annoy. So choose to earn respect. In the end, it's much more fun to go to work each day at a respected company that is honest, fun, and treats people well. You might as well work to make that happen.