Responding to negative social media comments

social media

In keeping with the current theme of social media, I sat down with Principals’ David and Marilyn Shank to further examine the issue of responding to negative social media comments. This blog will follow a Q&A format.

Q: When should you respond to negative social media comments and is there ever a time you shouldn’t respond?

M: “If there is misinformation given in a negative comment, you need to politely correct the information. You also want to respond when a customer asks for help regarding a product or service. In those two instances, there is not a decision to be made, you need to respond. If you correct misinformation or deal with a complaint, you’ve taken it off the table. You should not respond when it’s a person whose opinions you are not likely to change and when the person or persons commenting are not your target audience”.

D: “It depends on the medium. You have to be careful about how you address someone; you never want to sound too corporate, or condescending. And as a writer, you need to convey empathy and sometimes even a good sense of humor can help lighten the mood, or even solve the problem. But, humor can be tricky. It has to be in good taste and not appear to demean or diminish the issue”.

Q: So how do you craft a lighthearted sincere response?

M: “Social media expects you to be human, so if you are too corporate sounding or say something that doesn’t resonate with audiences, people will pick up on it. There’s also a tendency to be lighthearted or sarcastic and you do have to be careful not to go too far, especially if you are representing a company. You never want to insult someone’s intelligence by asking if they’ve plugged in since their nonfunctioning washing machine or computer. You might ask a question or two, to see if you are dealing with someone who is starting from ground zero or someone whose product truly isn’t working”.

Q: Throughout your career, how have you formulated key messages to assist with complaints and that provide insight to your companies overall mission?

D: “You want messages that resonate with people. Take Walmart, their basic philosophy “low prices, live better,” resonates with people and reinforcing this key message is important when appropriate. But there could be times when key messages can sound like cookie cutter phrases”.

M: “We had a client selected for a project that got a lot media coverage. On the comments section of prominent publication, a person who interviewed with the company but didn’t get the job continually bad mouthed the company and our client was livid. I advised them to wait before responding, and shortly thereafter other people defended the company and their reputation”.

That wraps up our second edition of The Principals’ Office. Hopefully I’ve provided some insight to crafting key messages and responding to company bad mouthing. For more information on what we do at Shank Public Relations Counselors, Inc., follow us on Twitter @Shank_PR, like us on Facebook and check out our website at The topic for our next installment is how much is too much: When does your companies posting & tweeting become annoying?


Welcome our Fall/Winter 2012 intern!

   Meet Reese Horel.  Reese is the newest addition to our team serving as the Fall/Winter 2012 intern. We’re happy to have her and excited to see what she’ll accomplish this semester!

Name: Reese Horel

Age: 21

University: Ball State University

Hometown: Chicago, Ill.

What’s your favorite part of public relations?

The best part of public relations is meeting and working with different types of clients. In PR you can work at a non-profit, a firm, a corporation, in entertainment; the possibilities are endless. Your interests can be directly related to the work that you decide to do, which makes becoming an adult a lot less scary.

What are you most looking forward to during your internship with Shank Public Relations Counselors?

Everything! To name one specific thing would be impossible. I’ve only been here a week, but already I have had the chance to travel a little bit and even sit in on a client meeting. Everyday I’m learning so much from David and Marilyn and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester brings.

One thing that I have learned so far during my internship is that I have the opportunity to dabble into all aspects of PR. From social media to special events to writing news stories, I’m allowed the opportunity to perfect all my skills, and for that I am extremely thankful.

What advice do you have for students looking for PR internships?

Research the company!  When applying for an internship with Shank Public Relations Counselors, I read their entire website to make I was an expert on the company before my interview.  I also read blog posts and tips on how to score an internship so that I knew what the firm found acceptable or unacceptable.

Every company is different and you don’t want to make the mistake of sending a generic cover letter and resume to each one.  Take the time to find out what’s important to each organization, firm, or company you apply for. It may sound like a lot of work to do for each internship that you apply for, but trust me, researching pays off.

Same Game, New Rules, New Tools

The word public in public relations is finally, well…public!

According to David Meerman Scott, author of, The New Rules of Marketing & PR, the thanks go out to the Internet. In his book Scott states, “After years of almost exclusive focus on media […] blogs, online video, news release, and other forms of Web content let organizations communicate directly with buys,” (Page 11).

That my blog reading friends, requires a new rule of public relations. Public relations was once a profession that relied heavily (and almost exclusively) on the media to tell their story.

Hence the old rule: Buyers only heard about your company if the media wrote about it.

Now, we shall introduce the new rule: You can talk to your customers yourself.

Scott claims in his book that “if you do a good job telling your story directly, the media will find out. And then they will write about you!” (Page 10).

Despite the fact public relations pros are all really excited about the new rules, it is important to consider keeping the old rules on radar. I consider today a transition period in which there is a wide range of professionals. Some professionals would still prefer receiving a news release via email while other social media friendly would prefer you pitch a story via Twitter. While some day the public relations profession may completely throw out the old rules, for now, it seems in our best interest to be aware of both sets of rules. The key is to KNOW who you are talking to and their preference and niche.

So for now…go talk to your publics!

By Julie Stutzman, Account Associate