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How to Handle Bad Press as an Online Community Manager

As online community manager, you’re not going to be able to avoid bad headlines or news that’s capable of hurting your reputation. Not only is today a time when everything is public, but it’s also a time when you have to own up to your mistakes and confront problems head-on.

The statement “All publicity is good publicity” is untrue. Bad publicity can do damage. However, the degree of damage depends on how you choose to handle the situation.

Unless you work for some huge, famous brand, most bad press is viewed only by the people in your immediate community and a few other people who have an interest in what your brand does.

Also, unless the bad press is due to something wild and scandalous that’s splashed across the front pages of all the major newspapers and websites, the crisis may not be as epic as you may originally think when the news first breaks.

Determine first whether the situation is worthy of a public address. The biggest issue is in making sure that the news doesn’t get bigger or more scandalous, especially online. News dies down, but it stays findable in the search engines forever.

If your community is clamoring for answers or the ensuing community discussion is causing a bit of turmoil, don’t ignore it. Create an open dialogue and answer questions as honestly as possible without betraying your brand.

Answer all questions to the best of your ability. Don’t ignore anyone or tap-dance around the discussion. If you can’t give an answer, let the other person know that you’ll look into the question and respond as soon as possible. Publicly confronting the bad publicity and responding honestly to community questions helps continue the trust and mutual respect you share with your online network.

Besides answering questions publicly, you may choose to respond to bad publicity in a blog post, press release, or other online statement. Again, don’t gloss over facts or dance around what really happened. Admit mistakes, apologize if necessary, and put the situation behind you.

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