It is often said that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. But in today’s world of viral social media posts, that may not be the case. A simple negative comment about your brand could snowball into a massive controversy that can paralyze your business and can hamper lead generation.
Bad PR is something that happens to all businesses, especially the big ones. In fact, many companies that have become popular were able to do so by experiencing a massive PR crisis and turning it around on its head to eventually benefit from it.
That said, spinning negative PR on social media is like playing with fire—if you’re not careful enough, you risk getting burnt in front of a public audience and tarnishing your brand reputation.
While responding to negative comments on social media is risky, it’s a hazard you have to take if you want to improve your business. According to Warren Whitlock, one of Forbes top 10 social media influencers, complaints often come from people who actually care about your company and want you to succeed. Ignoring complaints may be a safer move, but you could hurt yourself more by losing potential life-long customers.
Here are some approaches you can use, along with examples, on how to respond to negative publicity on social media.
(1) The Normal Way
What’s the simplest way of addressing negative feedback on social media?
- Advise on a solution.
First, you have to indicate that you acknowledge the feedback and accept that you have shortcomings on your end. Once you’ve acknowledged that, offer a sincere apology, quickly followed up with a suggestion on how you can resolve the issue.
A good example of this is KitchenAid’s response to its Twitter crisis back in 2012, which nailed all three steps in addressing this issue.
Cynthia Soledad, who was head of marketing at the time, went the extra mile by issuing the apology not as a brand entity, but as herself. This made the apology more sincere, and helped KitchenAid get back on its feet more easily than if it was done otherwise.
(2) The Swift Response
Due to its on-demand nature, Twitter is a favorite platform for sharing negative reviews about brands. While many businesses usually just ignore these (which isn’t a good idea), Elon Musk turned it into a weapon of his own.
Musk, founder and CEO of two of the most popular tech companies in the world, showed the world how to use Twitter as a customer service-slash-marketing tool when he directly responded to complaints about Tesla and resolved the issue in LESS THAN AN HOUR.
Like the first example, Musk’s approach was also sincere because the response came from his personal account, not from Tesla’s.
What’s more is that Musk’s sincere apology served as a clever marketing tactic, which caused more good than harm for his company. Proof that feedback often comes from customers who actually care.
(3) Sprinkle A Little Bit of Humor
When it comes to handling customer complaints like a pro, we can all learn a lot from Tesco.
(Notice the rhyme in there? There’s more of that in our next example 😉)
Back in 2016, a Tesco customer shared a Facebook photo when he found out that the cucumber he bought had a worm in it. Tesco cleverly responded with a poem or an “ode to William” which made the post viral.
This approach is harder to pull off than the others since you’ll need someone really good at telling great stories. It also depends if you think your customers can take a little laugh. But if you do pull this off, you can potentially pivot bad PR into a golden one that could even go viral.
Whatever approach you take, there’s one thing that should stay the same when responding to bad PR on social media: always maintain a tone of empathy.
In the end, what your customers really want is someone to listen to their story and help them with a solution.
Johanna drives the product and data strategies at PureB2B. She’s a two-decade veteran of the online publishing, B2B demand generation, and technology media markets. When not in the office, Johanna enjoys her family, fitness routines and reading self-help books.