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How to Respond to an Online Reputation Crisis?

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It is now well established that online reviews and recommendations on the social media have a direct impact on the sales and conversion rate. Defamation of your company’s name on the Internet is a PR crisis that you need to handle immediately because the lack of a good, coordinated response just aggravates it.

No company can completely avert an online PR crisis but there are ways using which you can effectively respond to such a crisis. Here are some tips for you.

Monitor the Web – Industry specific websites and forums are places where people usually talk about your products/services. So, you should instruct your PR team to check these websites on a regular basis.

Also, check Google results for your company name and other related keywords on a regular basis.

Keep an eye on consumer forums and websites like, etc.

Monitor the social sphere too, platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn etc are places where consumers gather and share their experiences about products and services. You can use monitoring tools like,,, Google alerts etc to track mentions and conversations about your company or brand.

Responding promptly to the negative comments of users will drastically improve people’s opinion about your company. Prepare your PR professional or team to respond promptly and effectively to consumer queries, complaints and comments.

Engage on Social Media – Despite all the benefits that social media offers to companies, it also gives the users/consumers a platform for brand-bashing. So, work out a strategy to positively engage them and nullify the negative effects.

Case Study # 1 – Dell Hell

The importance of engagement on Social Media can be highlighted by this incident widely dubbed as “Dell Hell”, an online PR disaster by Dell Computers.

In the year 2005, a blogger named Jeff Jarvis posted a blog about how bad his Dell Laptop was. One thing led to another and within a matter of months, hundreds of negative posts about Dell circled the blogosphere. The New York Times and the Business Week also reported about this. Dell’s reputation was severely affected.

Dell had to work hard to repair their brand name and the thing that helped them was engagement in the Forums and Social Media. They created a separate PR team and created an online complaint forum called which answered user’s complaints directly.

Admit to your mistakes – This is the greatest yet simplest thing that you can do. The first step in solving a problem is admitting that you have one. If you admit your mistakes, it will give you the opportunity to work without trying to hide anything.

Case Study #2 – Search Engine Land – Wired Spam Crisis

In 2008, Search Engine Land, a tech website published a “how-to” article about obtaining links from Wired.Com. Following the instructions of this article, many users caused serious spam issues to Wired.Com. The article also created a huge buzz in the search marketing arena and eventually damaged the brand name of both Search Engine Land and Wired.

Danny Sullivan was the CEO of Search Engine Land and although he didn’t write that article, he publicly issued an apology to Wired.Com. He accepted and apologized for the mistakes that were committed by his men and his concern.

The thing is your customers want sincerity from your part. They want to know that you have messed up. Hence, covering your mistake is not the way to go.

Find an immediate solution – This is the most important thing that you should do after admitting your mistake. Find a solution and avoid procrastinating.

If the user complaint is directed at a particular person, get that person to issue a personal response immediately. If the complaint has come through a particular platform (for instance, Facebook or Twitter), make sure that you respond to that problem through the same platform.

The Consumer Relationship Head, the PR Head and the Marketing Director of your company should be kept informed.

An online crisis does not simply go away. It is bound to attract more traffic from negative sources and grow with time. Hence, make sure that you don’t let the story run for days or weeks. Also, it is imperative not to react under panic. Your response will lead to further arguments and discussion and so, keep that in mind before scripting a response.

Be Transparent; Avoid Manipulation – An online PR crisis will hardly arise if you stay transparent and avoid manipulation. So, make sure you and your company remains transparent at all times.

Case Study # 3 – Wal-Mart’s Sponsorship Problem

In 2006, Jim and Laura a couple who wanted to travel across America in a RV and since Wal-Mart allows a free parking for RV’s, they approached them.
Wal-Mart jumped at the opportunity and decided to give Jim and Laura a Wal-Mart branded RV, paid for their expenses and also set up a blog in which Laura wrote about their travel. Wal-Mart did not advertise about its sponsorship.

The blog went viral and once other people found out about Wal-Mart’s sponsorship, they accused Wal-Mart of deception. Wal-Mart’s reputation took a huge hit. Although this was not really an act of deception, the absence of transparency on their part led to the whole issue.

In a world that is getting more and more dependent on the Internet, an online PR crisis could very well affect your sales, conversion rate and overall brand name. More than the quality of the product that your company offers, it is your brand name which determines its value.

Always remember that it takes 20 years to build a reputation but only less than 20 minutes to destroy it. A negative buzz on the internet, if left without a response will surely destruct the reputation of your company. So, make sure that it doesn’t happen.

Are you facing an online PR crisis? Speak to our ORM consultant on +91 8826 175930 or mail us at .

ORM is not only for companies/businesses hit by online reputation crisis, you can even implement the process to boost your online reputation. Avail our ORM Service to kick start your ORM campaign now. Click here to know more about online reputation management process

Author: Sriram Ilango

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