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Monday, September 08, 2008

How To Respond To A Blog Crisis In 5 Steps

A blogger has just said something bad about your company and it's getting picked up and repeated by others rapidly online ... what do you do? One of the toughest things to understand about responding to a negative situation on blogs is the speed with which the conversations happen. Speed matters because in a matter of minutes, content can go viral and not responding early means that your voice is missing in the crucial early conversations and therefore not represented as anyone carries the conversation forward. Aside from that, if you do not respond quickly, you give others a chance to respond for you - and perhaps not favourably. So how do you deal with a negative blog situation if one did arise, and do it quickly?*

Here are a few tips:

  1. Identify the participants: Every blog crisis has three categories of participants: the source, the commenters and the promoters. The source is the place where the story started, the commenters are those who are discussing it, and the promoters are the people spreading the story online. By far the easiest way to build a picture of these people is to simply follow links ... visit the original site, click on "About" pages, click on people's name in blog comments and keep a list of these people.
  2. Evaluate the conversation - In addition to tone of comments (positive, negative), look for frequency, how many different people are commenting and the date and time of last comment to see how active and wide reaching the conversation is. Going beyond blogs, read the "backchannel" of conversation by searching for your keywords and the source blogger on Twitter Search. Often bloggers will offer a running commentary through Twitter, giving you vital background information and possibly even a way to engage the blogger in a real time discussion.
  3. Respond authentically - On blogs, as opposed to other less immediate and personal forms of media, you cannot rely on a carefully crafted press release to create some ambiguity or delicately respond to a crisis. You need to actually have a point of view and share it authentically. This may be an apology, or a promise to investigate further, or a correction of fact. Doing it authentically means you need to have a real person comment (not an anonymous company account).
  4. Publish your point of view - Simply commenting, however, is not the most powerful way to respond to a negative situation. The best way is to publish your point of view on some form of social media that is an asset for your company. This means publishing something on your own corporate blog (if you have one). Then every comment or subsequent discussion can point people back to this content, and even bring the conversation about the issue onto your site.
  5. Monitor and respond to conversation - The most challenging thing about responding to a blog crisis is that you need to keep monitoring the conversation and responding to commentary and dialogue. At some point, it will usually die down ... but in social media and on blogs you need to follow through on any conversations you have started, or else risk undoing any positive work you may have done as people feel you are not paying attention to them.

* As you may have realized, this post assumes already that you will be responding to a blogger. There are some very real situations where we have counseled clients NOT to respond to particular blog attacks and where I personally have chosen not to respond to bloggers who may have posted negatively about me. Unfortunately, there is no hard rule for when to respond or when not to as each situation is different.

Note: This post is republished from the original on the Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence Blog.


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Another simple idea is to talk to the person. I find in person, most people are much more rational. Especially if approached with a "seek first to understand" approach

Another simple idea is to talk to the person. I find in person, most people are much more rational. Especially if approached with a "seek first to understand" approach

Great points Rohit. And as time is so critical, one of the best things you can do is establish how the communication (and approval) process will flow internally BEFORE anything like this comes up.

Many times senior management, legal, or folks you simply don't work with as often will need to be involved before you jump into a conversation (for example, if there is a claim about the safety of your client's product, legal needs to be involved). Define who will need to be involved in the process and who will be the spokesperson beforehand so you're ready to move quickly without getting caught up in red tape.

Good points, but the biggest and perhaps hardest of all - how do you find out when others are talking about you, and in a timely manner?

Do you have to do hourly searches on the internet for your company name??? Argh! I can't imagine... Would be nice to setup a global ping that would let you know automagically. LOL.

Interesting and useful. Recently I've read Internet chatter of a company suing a blogger for comments a reader made. Also some bad mouthing of top users on some social networking sites.

People need to read this. Thank you.


Thanks for opening up this conversation. On the whole, I think you're on target.

I think, though, that you have to evaluate response options more broadly based on the situation. There are a wide range of possibilities beyond publishing your own response. For example:

1 - No Response - is the post from a low-volume, low-authority source and not gaining much traction? Maybe the best option is to ignore it, rather than give it credbility.

2 - Converse With the Blogger - Use email or other channels to have a "private" conversation. When the blogger in question is not overtly hostile and open to dialogue, this can be the best approach. You're not calling them out or confronting them in public. If you win them over, getting them to amend or retract their post can be far more useful than publishing a counterargument. We've done this in at least one instance and got published kudos from the blogger for our clients genuine, respectful response.

One caveat. If you adopt this approach, don't be under any illusion that your correspondence that your correspondence will remain private. Assume that anything you write can and will be used against you in the court of blogosphere opinion.

I agree with Mark, most people forget that caveat. Very important to remember

I would suggest the adoption of the story and additionally a more comprehensive social media strategy than just using a weblog. This is because social networks are indexed very quickly by search engines and by this a social networking strategy is a good mean for reputation management. By the latter and the adoption of the issue and by good indexing there is a good chance to lead a proceeding discussion.

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