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8 Steps for Handling Online Criticism

Haters can attack your business on social media, review sites and comments sections.

And when it happens, it’s more than a nuisance. It can hurt your brand, often leading to reputational damage, lost customers and lower employee morale.

“It’s happening around the clock,” says Andrea Weckerle, author of Civility in the Digital Age. “It matters because an organization’s online reputation is its reputation.”

Here are Andrea’s eight steps for dealing with online criticism:

1. Know the troublemakers

Trolls – Individuals who create havoc for fun and thrive on emotional reactions.

Sock puppets – People assuming a false identity for the purpose of entertainment.

Defamers ­– Users who spread false information as a statement of fact.

Difficult people – People who act thoughtlessly or want to put you in your place, often using aggressive language.

2. Listen, listen, listen


When someone attacks your business and work, it is easy to become defensive. Andrea recommends giving your full attention to what the person says without thinking of your response. If you craft a response while listening, you may miss the tone of the message.

3. Do you need to respond?

Just because someone publishes a negative tweet about your company or product doesn’t mean you have to respond. Use past experience to determine if it’s worth your time. If you do respond, consider what type of resources to use to address the issue.

4. Determine who to engage

When faced with multiple problems, you should perform triage and respond to the ones that have the greatest potential to damage your brand first.

Before responding, though, attempt to summarize the problem as succinctly as possible, write down who is involved and examine the timeline of when the negative comments began. Organizing this will help you determine how to respond.

5. Ask open-ended questions


When faced with a perceived attack on your brand, you should suspend judgment until you understand the point of the other side. Get to the bottom of the issue by asking open-ended questions.

6. Know your anger triggers

By understanding what comments and topics make you upset, you will be more likely to keep cool and remain nimble and clear-headed as you handle the situation.

7. Research the troublemaker

Review the blog, social networks and any other information you can find about the troublemaker. This will help you determine that person’s conflict style and what type of outcome they want to create with their comments.

8. Look internally

Look at your company’s history to determine if this is the first time the problem has arisen or the group complaining. If your company has dealt with similar problems in the past it can show you what to do or what not to do when resolving the situation.

Also, check with your legal department (if available) to see if the person has made any claims that can hurt your brand.   

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Tags : social media

About Brian Conlin

Brian Conlin is a content marketing manager for Cision. A former journalist, he enjoys researching and developing accessible content. When not writing, you will find him watching baseball and college basketball, sampling craft beer and enjoying Baltimore. Find him on Twitter @BrianConlin13.

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