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11.6 Ten Rules to Recover from an Online Brand Attack

Learning Objective

  1. Learn how brands can best recover from an online threat.

These ten rules to recovery should provide a practical approach for brands facing an online threat.

Rule 1: Humility

Before you can recover from an online brand attack, you have to be aware that your brand can be attacked, no matter how big it is or how untouchable it may seem.

Rule 2: Listen

Once you have a clear understanding of the scope of the possible effects of an online attack and are committed to maintaining a good reputation online, you’re halfway there. Next you’ve got to understand how the process of consumer complaints has evolved. Use this understanding to guide your actions.

Rule 3: Act Immediately

One of the easiest ways to solve the majority of brand attacks is to respond quickly. A brand that shows it is listening and does indeed care will go far when it comes to ensuring a solid online reputation. A conscious reaction is the only way forward—that is, acknowledging what has been said and reacting accordingly.

Rule 4: If What They’re Saying Is False…

If the mention of your brand is factually incorrect, in a friendly tone, send the blogger (90 percent of the time it will be a blogger) evidence that they are wrong, ask for removal or retraction of the entry, and offer to keep them informed of future news. If no action is taken by the blog author, then add a comment.

Rule 5: If What They’re Saying Is True…

If it is true, learn from the “Dell Hell” phenomenon, a term coined from the situation in which a blogger wrote about his bad experience with computer maker Dell. Dell failed to respond, and the negative word spread—resulting in insurmountable damage for the company. If the mention is negative but true, then tell your side of the story and try as hard as you can to take it offline.

On January 22, 2009, a story was published on CNN’s iReport claiming that Steve Jobs had had a heart attack. While it was later found out to be a hoax, it had an immediate effect on Apple’s stock price, dropping it by 6.6 percent, amounting to a $5.62 billion loss in market capital.

Rule 6: Keep the Negative Pages out of the Search Engines

Keeping more people from reading negative things about your brand is imperative. What you can do is knock them off the first page of the results with basic SEO topped with some social media page setups such as Squidoo and MySpace or forum posts. Keep adding pages and links until you’ve forced the offending pages out of sight. This tactic doesn’t lack transparency but rather gives consumers the opportunity to view positive mentions of your brand before they come across the negative ones. All brands have negative conversation surrounding them in some form or another.

Rule 7: Maintain Communication

If you aren’t an active member of the online community, it will be a little harder to recover from an online attack. If your company doesn’t have a blog, start one. Participate in industry forums and chat rooms. Build genuine credibility as a member of these conversations, and you’ll find that people will have more respect for you and your brand.

Rule 8: Engage in the Conversation

Keep your brand in the face of consumers by engaging in the conversation. This could be done by making use of blogs, communicating with customers, and being as open and honest as possible. Engaging in, and leading, the conversation allows you to build an authentic voice. If a crisis hits, you will be well placed to respond in a way that is authentic.

Rule 9: Care

If you truly care what your customers think, then most of this will come naturally. That’s all people want. They give you their money; they just want some good service and respect in return.

Rule 10: Be Prepared

No brand is immune to an online brand attack. The best brands have strategies in place to immediately identify a reputation crisis and respond to it quickly enough to stop the negative word of mouth from spreading.

If all else fails, apologize and move on.

Bottom line, by making bloggers familiar with your voice, you will be better placed to respond to criticism. Consumers can spot last-minute corporate firefighting—they should know and trust your voice already.

Key Takeaways

  • There are ten steps to recovery from an online brand attack: humility, listen, act immediately, if what they’re saying is false, if what they’re saying is true, keep the negative pages out of the search engines, maintain communication, engage in the conversation, care, and be prepared.
  • Following these steps will help a brand’s reputation.


  1. Choose a company and use at least one of the services listed in this chapter to gain an overview of its online reputation. Find a positive mention, a neutral mention, and a negative mention and determine the influence of each. What action would you recommend for each?