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How to Respond to Bad Press about Your Online Community

Not all of your feedback is coming from online community members. Outsiders, or “potential community members,” also like to add their feedback, and sometimes they give you bad press.

This feedback is interesting because it’s coming from someone who may not have a vested interest in your community or doesn’t experience the positive vibe your members receive from participating. It doesn’t mean this type of feedback isn’t valuable — just that it might be different from the feedback coming from folks inside your community.

There’s a saying “There’s no such thing as bad press,” but bad press can lead to some bad results — for example, a drop in sales or lower community numbers. However, all feedback is valuable feedback, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative.

Now, here’s where it gets tricky. Unless it’s a very positive piece, feedback from the press can be a bit scary. You don’t want anyone writing any bad things about you, right? And if it’s in a major newspaper or top blog, a lot of people are going to read it.

Handling reactions to your community from the press, whether positive or negative, takes a bit of finesse. Most likely, you’re going to be acknowledging the feedback in public in the form of a comment under the article or blog post. You may even be asked in a follow up for a response.

Here’s what you need to do when you respond to bad publicity:

  • Say thank you. Whether the press is positive or negative, thank the writer for taking the time to offer thought-provoking comments. Let her know you will take the criticism into consideration.

  • Note areas of concern. Don’t sweep anything under the rug and don’t make a lot of excuses. If you’re aware of an existing issue, acknowledge it and say that you’re working to fix it. If you’re not aware of the issue, let them know that you’re going to look into their concerns and take any necessary steps.

    Don’t minimize any of the author’s concerns, even if you feel he’s off base.

  • If you disagree, do so respectfully. Don’t be afraid to voice disagreement but don’t turn it into a debate. Respectfully discuss your reasoning and don’t turn it into a spitting mix. Stay pleasant and positive throughout the exchange.

  • If you agree, stay loyal. If the writer raises good points about a bad experience, don’t throw your team members under the bus. Saying that it’s someone else’s fault or that you have inexperienced staff members only serves to make both you and your brand look bad.

  • If the writer says something nice, and you agree, do so without being self-righteous or sanctimonious. By all means, agree that your community is the best, and your team really knows their stuff, but don’t make it sound like it’s coming from your ego.

  • Don’t ignore feedback. If someone writes about you, do take the time to write back in response. It doesn’t matter if it’s positive or negative; your community wants to know you know what’s being said about you and that you’re listening and working to make improvements.

Hopefully, the kind of press you receive is the good kind, but whether it’s positive or negative, you still want to acknowledge it. Say thank you, make any specific comments you feel need to be said, and keep it positive and friendly. With any luck, the positive press will keep on coming.

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