How to Respond to Negative Reviews Online

How to Respond to Negative Reviews Online

responding to negative reviews

responding to negative reviews

Someone left me a scathing review. Is there anything I can do to fix this?

I've been asked this question more than once: What do I do about the disgruntled former client who takes his grievances to the world wide web? It is easy to feel like a negative review can destroy your reputation – especially when it is circulating cyberspace. Before we dive into some practical tips to inoculate such fiery reviews, keep in mind the tremendous power of quality digital content:

YOU control the messaging. YOU control your brand. You, and only you, refine your image and reputation through the content that you produce. You have the power to reflect your knowledge, expertise, character, and professionalism through your content.

Nevertheless, once the bad review is posted, it is there to stare at you until kingdom come. So what are you supposed to do?

First and foremost, remind yourself that one bad review does not define you. It can be tempting to feel this way, especially if you are a new attorney. But you are not the sum of your clients’ strongly voiced opinions – and typically, opinions that are extreme are typically not accurate or grounded in reality.

Here are some practical tips.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews Online

A 6-Step Guide

how to respond to negative reviews

how to respond to negative reviews

  1. Assess the situation.

Who posted the review? A client? A prospective client? Someone you know well? A complete stranger? Keep in mind there is a chance it could be a fraud or a competitor, or it could be a disgruntled former client who was disappointed by the service he or she received. Try to figure out who it was and what may have prompted him to leave a review.

  1. Check the substance.

Once you've confirmed the reviewer's identity, calmly read the review for its tone and substance. Is the writing clear and cogent, or does it read more like a disjointed stream of consciousness? Determining the level of legitimacy of the review will guide you in discerning whether it warrants a response.

  1. Confirm its visibility.

How prominent is the review? Does it pop up immediately in search results when you Google your name? Or, is it embedded on a very old, outdated page on AVVO, lawyers.com, or Yelp? If the latter, consider that writing a response may "refresh" the review, increasing its visibility in searches and drawing more attention to it.

  1. Decide whether to take action.

Based on the author, substance, and visibility of the review, determine whether it is worth it to respond, either publicly or to the reviewer directly. Some factors to consider are:

  • If the reviewer seems to have an objectively legitimate concern

  • The visibility of the post

  • Whether you think you can communicate rationally with the reviewer: If the reviewer seems emotionally unstable or aggressive, it may not be worth your while. Conversely, if it is a former client with whom you had a positive relationship, reaching out privately to discuss the review may be a more fruitful exercise.

  1. Assess the risk.

At the end of the day, choosing not to respond to the review is, arguably, considerably less risky than responding to it. Responding could fan the flames, draw more attention to the review, or needlessly put you on the defensive.  A fail-proof option is to continue to produce excellent content that is helpful to your current and prospective clients – which will make your digital footprint authoritative, polished, and strong.

  1. Focus on your own content.

A negative review is beyond your control in many ways, but your own content is 100% within your control. Focus on providing your audience with useful content. The crankiest of cranky reviewers will not be able to hold a candle to polished, stellar, authoritative content that is genuine, on-brand, and helpful to your audience.

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