Kirsten Osolind, on her fantastic re:invention blog weighs in with some smart steps companies can take to extinguish negative online publicity:
1. ACKNOWLEDGE RESPONSIBILITY RESPONSIBILY
If your company has done wrong or had an issue, acknowledge the issue/wrong, take responsibility, and provide an overview of what you are doing to address it. Respond on the site where the negative publicity occurred if possible and if warranted, on your company website.
2. GO TO THE MATTRESSES – BUT DON’T GO ALONE
If the online criticism is unfounded/false/incorrect, utilize your network FIRST. Solicit help from loyal customers and advisory boards – asking them to post personal positive feedback, articulate your key messages, or provide enthusiastic endorsements to counter the negative claim. Ask them to question the person who made the unfounded online claims and solicit more specific detail from the negative evangelist. You’ll be better prepared to answer on behalf of your company.
3. TRY PAID SEARCH
Paid search (paid inclusion, pay-per-click) can work to counter negative publicity. You can articulate your key messages to your target audience, showcase customer endorsements, and push down the negative comments.
4. DO GOOD AND BE GOOD
Continue to offer good customer service and good quality products. Over time, loyal and satisfied customers will help douse the online flames and evangelize truth over fiction.
5. LITIGATE AS A LAST RESORT
As a last resort (and we mean a LAST RESORT), companies can pursue litigation, contacting site owners directly or spam checking/reverse link look-ups.
I almost left that last one out. ;-)