As taste, needs and standards differ from one person to the next, having everyone appreciate a company or product or person is impossible. At a point or another, negative comments are about to emerge, via email, via the phone or publicly as comments to web sites, blogs and articles about a certain business or business person published on outlets allowing readers to post their opinions. Some are caused by something we did, others just come from differences of opinion.

There are many ways to address negative comments, depending on what triggers them, who and where posts them and each and every company’s strategy. But regardless of how we respond to negative comments – explaining a situation or its circumstances, challenging the person who authored the comment, apologizing or trying to change the subject, knowing when to just let go, be the bigger person and move on is also very important.

I personally believe that negative comments should only be ignored when they are a lie or exaggeration from a source that no one would trust and on a relatively invisible website or blog. Even then it is risky, as no one knows when a certain web page might become an Internet hot spot, boosting the credibility of the negative comment. The general rule is that you should not suddenly validate negative opinions that most people would ignore. Otherwise you risk turning a passing rumor into a viral debate.

But if comments are easy to find and would make your potential customers consider the stand and the arguments, they should also hear your side of the story. Responding is important, but sometimes a certain negative remark takes over the conversation. It all revolves around the author of that less than positive opinion and the company representative, with several exchanges that make the issue bigger than it is.

Other people wanting to express their opinion might be put off by this long debate, which might not even be on the core issue currently discussed. Moreover, by posting reply after reply to one person’s thoughts and negative comments boost their relevance and credibility. If you give it so much time and effort, maybe there is something to their arguments.

A rule of thumb of mine is that a company’s take on a matter can be explained in one or maximum two replies unless other game changing information is introduced or other persons join the initial debate. People can turn a simple issue into a two-day conversation with comments longer than the initial article, piece of news, blog post, video or photo. But most of the times it’s the same arguments and examples in new clothes, so it’s really wasted effort and time. And it’s not only your time, it’s that of other readers and potential buyers.

Of course, the temptation of making the final, undebatable argument is sometimes very powerful, even for seasoned communicators. But you have to remember: it’s OK to disagree. Also, you should review your reply through the eyes of smart and relatively objective readers, not submit it to the train of thoughts and arguments of the initial commenter.

How have you dealt with negative comments? After how many replies did you put an end to the conversation?

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