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Responding to Negative Press on Social Media (proactively)

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

This week we got a call from a client who was anticipating some bad PR on social media.

Here’s the scenario:

Our client’s business had just signed a deal to acquire all of another business’s customers. About a week after the deal was made, to their surprise, the seller came back to them with a flurry of emails that had phrases like “I’m losing my patience” and “This is a pile of crap”. The kicker was a threat from the seller that read, “I’ll list 50 postings on social outlets about your antics.”

Intimidated and stunned by the recent events, our client reached out to us for some help mitigating this forewarned negativity associated with their brand. We had never had such a scenario pop up before so we dug into some research and figured out what the next steps for our client should look like. This blog post will look at ways we are proactively mitigating the threat of these negative social media posts.

Before we jump in, I want to point out that in this scenario, nothing has been posted yet. The seller has merely threatened action at this point so this won’t be a guide to reacting to a social media crisis after it has already happened. We are talking about how to proactively deal with a threat for action.

Dealing with a Threat to Discredit Your Brand on Social Media

To be honest, we are counting ourselves lucky that we were tasked with mitigating the chances for a fire rather than being tasked with putting out a fire that has been raging. That’s the first thing you should take away from this scenario - putting out a fire is a much more difficult task than taking the proper steps to stop the fire from ever starting.

The opportunity we had was actually a best case scenario because we were given the chance to deal with the unhappy customer privately rather than addressing their problems after all of the dirty laundry had been aired out across social platforms. That’s why if you find yourself in this type of predicament, you should consider yourself lucky that you got the opportunity to be enlightened to the situation before it went live – and potentially viral!

Another strategy we suggest to our client was to proactively communicate to each of their employees to refrain from engaging with the threat. It’s imperative to walk a fine line when engaging with threats like this one. So this means to refrain from trying to go lone wolf and disarm the threat on your own and without the weight or influence of the entire brand behind you. Without a cohesive message or response to the situation, things can get ugly fast on social media (and I think we’ve all seen this go terribly wrong on the Internet).

The last point that we hope is an obvious one is that you shouldn’t resort to any backdoor deals or anything relating to bribery when it comes to this stuff. Any sort of conspicuous behavior in response to this threat can only serve as more ammo for the accuser to use against your brand. This is another reason why your entire workforce needs to be on the same page as management so that the straw that broke the camel’s back doesn’t come from an unforced error that could have been avoided altogether.

So, in conclusion, stay calm and work within your organization to build a uniform, strategic response to a threat of negative press on social media. Most of the time, these types of threats are diffused by dealing with the situation privately, hammering out fair and honest terms with the accuser. Remember, count yourself lucky that you didn’t wake up to a fire burning your house down.


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