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How to respond to negative social media comments

This step describes how to respond to PR disasters on social media.
Whilst your company will have a unique set of challenges and needs in this type of situation, there are some general rules to follow when responding to a crisis on social media.
The following will help mitigate the negative impact these situations can cause:

1. Apologise

First and foremost, never be above saying sorry. Do it quickly and sincerely. Brands who apologise late will attract even more negative PR. Brands who publish cold, corporate apologies that lack authenticity will also attract further dissent.
An apology written on a mobile phone screen
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Publish your apology in the mediums that your audience is most comfortable with and that allows you to communicate on the most human level. Today, many organisations have chosen to use videos. Think about how you can put a key member of staff in front of a camera to offer your audience a sincere and heartfelt apology from the whole company.
This example from Adidas, which was published in the wake of an insensitive marketing email subject line (‘Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!’) shows restraint and grave seriousness around a tragedy which they showed a perceived insensitivity towards.
An apology on Twitter by Adidias
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It might have seemed safer for the brand to ignore the issue, in fear of bringing more attention to it. But, they made this decision that it was more important to apologise and use this as an opportunity to show the brand wasn’t afraid to put its hands up and accept that an error had been made. As you can see, the responses were mostly positive and understanding.

2. Empathise

In social media customer service, empathy is key. When issues arise, people need to know that your company is made of real people and it is not a faceless, uncaring, corporation. Always start responses by telling customers what you know about how they’re feeling e.g. “We know how frustrating and inconvenient this cancelled train is for you and…“.

3. Make people feel heard

As well as demonstrating empathy with your customers, it’s crucial that they feel heard when things go wrong. From their perspective, they’ve chosen to spend time and/ or money with your organisation and that’s an investment they could have placed elsewhere.
You must give customers a chance to say what they think and feel, even when you know it’s not going to be good. Just be prepared to hear those concerns and respond to them appropriately.

4. Being right, or winning the debate, doesn’t matter

In today’s social media landscape, many of us are fuelled by the need to be proven right and prove others wrong. It’s the fuel that keeps a million arguments raging across the internet every minute of every day. While individuals can do this, as a professional organisation you cannot follow this trend.
The more authenticity, candour and human sincerity you can put into your responses to negativity online, the further you will go in promoting a more balanced view of your company in the midst of a storm.
Representing a brand you can only go so far in explaining why things have happened and what you are doing to solve the issues. You should make authentic gestures and show how you’re changing to mitigate for the future, but you can’t win everyone over and you never will. Stay above arguments and debates, state your case in the most truthful, helpful, way possible.

5. Stay clear and results-focused

As mentioned in the previous lesson, it’s crucial that your responses remain focused on resolution while also showing that you care and understand your customers’ needs. This should be reinforced by taking demonstrable steps towards a clear and observable resolution.
The stages of responding to a PR issue
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Strip away ambiguity, and show that steps are being taken to help your customer. People understand that you are not perfect, but they will only continue to spend money with you if they know that you’re continually striving to improve your offering for them and your wider impact on the world.
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