I was recently asked the following question on Linkedin:
What’s your general view about what companies should do if they feel they are being unfairly maligned on Yelp?
How about doctors being unfairly maligned on medical sites?
Many brands and professionals have been the target of malicious reviews lately. The answer to these questions, of course, depends on the situation. Here are some suggestions to consider when faced with an unpleasant online attack:
First things first: Try to get it removed
If you can prove that the review is false and was created with malicious intent, then the first step is to get in touch with the platform and attempt to have the wrongful accusations removed. Although this is usually easier said than done, it’s still worth a try.
Your online reputation should go further than review sites
Rather than leaving it all up to the public and channels on which you have little to no control, focus on building a strong, positive online reputation. The focus here is to outrank the negative. Make sure that your corporate website is properly optimized, and then focus on having profiles on SEO-friendly platforms such as Linkedin, About.me, Twitter, Facebook, Quora, Yahoo Answers, and other industry-specific websites.
[FREE GUIDE: 3 helpful tips for your crisis comms prep]
Encourage happy customers to leave you positive reviews
If you have a long stream of legitimate positive reviews, the negative ones will not take precedence. Don’t be scared to get creative about doing this.
It’s important to Google yourself and your company, products, and services on a regular basis, in order to be aware of what is being said about you online on review sites and others. The more aware you are of your online reputation, the better chances you have at detecting and correcting falsehoods, rumors, and potential crisis situations before they spread and go viral.
If your brand consistently offers high-quality customer service and builds relationships with your audience and clientele, than a couple of malicious reviews won’t overpower your consistently reputable brand. You can’t please everyone, but you can control the way you and your team handle situations and strive for excellence.
However, there’s no denying that those negative reviews can be stressful and potentially damaging, so be sure to focus on building your positive online reputation and enabling yourself and your team to be aware of these issues in real time.
Melissa Agnes, president of Melissa Agnes Crisis Management, helps organizations to improve their online communications skills and to prevent, detect, and manage social media crises and issues. She is the editor of a daily blog on all aspects of online crisis management, where a version of this article originally appeared.