So, your company just got its awesome new gadget into the hands of media members to review. Congrats! Working with the media to help get its story out is a crucial part of any business’s marketing strategy and a great way to attract customers or investors, as well as a way to position the company in the marketplace.
However, no matter how good your PR team members may be, they can't control whether the journalist likes your product or not.
Certainly, there are some steps to take that can help make journalists' experience positive -- namely, responding to any questions or feedback in a timely manner, sending over FAQs/user manuals/spec sheets so they have needed info and not over-hyping your product’s potential or use cases.
But, still . . . No matter how great your product is, there will always be someone out there who doesn’t like it or doesn’t understand how to use it. Indeed, the nightmare of every member of your PR team is to see a prominent media outlet post a negative review, which will then live on the Internet forever.
So, steel yourself and realize that this will happen at some point, no matter how hard you try otherwise. But, how should you react?
Companies can react by getting angry with the journalist or trying to discredit him or her; but those responses are usually fruitless and verge on middle-school behavior. What's more, there are much better ways to lessen the blow.
Here are five steps to take to turn that negative into a positive:
1. Take 2 steps back and think, 'Is there truth to this?'
The very first thing you need to do is consider the fact that that reviewer may be right, at least on some accounts. Maybe you didn’t catch the bug in your app, or maybe the shiny new piece of hardware does not perform as advertised. Even if you think the article is off-base, take in the feedback, mull it over, pass it to your development and production team and test the journalist’s claims for yourself.
2. Voice your concerns in a polite manner if you believe the article was not objective.
NEVER, never, never send an angry note to a journalist after a negative review. If he or she did not like your product, use that response as motivation to show the world how great your product really is. If you feel that the journalist inserted too much personal opinion, let him or her know that. Offer data on any tests you've conducted, ask questions, and gain additional feedback on anything the reviewer may have left out of the article.
3. Mobilize your fans to weigh in.
Most PR people will tell you to never publicize a negative review, and in some cases they are right. But if you have avid fans that love your product, show them the article. Encourage them to weigh-in via the comment section or social media channels – but always stress their need to be objective.
As mentioned, the last thing any journalist wants is a mob with pitchforks just because of a negative experience with your product that he or she posted about. Fans and customers can provide their own experiences and help bring balance to an article, not necessarily discrediting the journalist, but at least showing that there are more sides to the story.
4. Post a thoughtful and informative response in the publication's comments.
Just as you encouraged your fans weigh in, do the same, yourself. Don't post marketing jargon or inflammatory comments, as those will get taken down by an admin and won’t bring any value to the conversation, anyway.
Instead, have an executive with your company post the article and use the opportunity to let readers know what the journalist may have missed -- maybe he or she didn’t mention your warranty or great customer service, or maybe the test involved a prototype reviewed as if it were the final product.
Let other readers know you care and are aware of any issues there may be. Because sticking your head in the sand and pretending the article will go away never works.
5. Resolve to work again with the naysayer, in the future.
Unless the article was outright defamatory, don't shy away from the reviewer who's been critical of your product. Rather, consider that negative feedback can lead to better future products and that nothing feels better than changing a naysayer’s mind.
It’s never good to burn bridges, especially when it comes to media, as someone who is a small-time blogger today may very well be an editor-in-chief in the future. So, it’s best to keep relationships open when at all possible. If the article was defamatory or completely off-base, see if there are any other reporters at the publication that may be interested in taking a fresh look at your product.
Negative reviews do indeed put a damper on marketing efforts, but there are lessons to be learned from each and every one of them. By handling bad press in a positive way, you may not only improve your product but also your relationships with the media and your customer base. Finally: Relax, the sky is not falling!