All practices, even the best ones, have had someone with a negative experience. Sometimes things just don’t go they way they’re planned. Complications that could not be foreseen happen, and there are circumstances beyond our control. Though reactions can vary, online defamation often occurs as unhappy patients (or customers, or clients) post on review sites with emotional or exaggerated responses. We have even seen evidence of clients suffering online defamation from competitors and previous employees. The big question asked is then, “How do I handle online defamation?”
How Do I Handle Online Defamation?
Responses to online defamation are usually handled on a case-by-case basis. The best responses are uniquely tailored to the situation, as different websites, claims, and posts are all handled with different approaches. However, there are some direct steps that can be taken regardless of the specifics:
- Investigate all of your options.
Because it is frustrating to see public comments that you may not feel are an accurate reflection of your practice, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and not know where to start. Take a methodical approach to investigating your options. Look at each site that is displaying negative content. Is there someone you can contact? Can information be removed or reported as abuse? Is there an option to respond directly to the criticism? Take a good look at the website and see what options exist. Often times, agencies that provide reputation management services have additional ties or access to companies to aid in review removal. Decide what your best approach is, and move forward with care, especially when frustrated. You want to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward, and that you’re generating good will. Which leads us to the next point…
- Don’t instigate further criticism.
It’s easy to have an emotional response to online defamation. It is very important, however, not to respond in an emotional way. Attacks and accusations only reinforce a negative impression. It is okay to respond, but do so in an appropriate, clear manner. If you are personally responding to criticism, it is typically a good idea to run your responses by your marketing/PR department or agency. They can give guidance from an unbiased perspective to make sure your message gets across accurately.When you do reply, make sure that you are not emotional in your response. Instead, stick to facts, offer solutions when available, and be concise. Avoid getting into an online argument or back-and-forth with someone who has had a negative experience at all costs. There is no way to win in an interaction like that.
- Promote the positive.
Combating online defamation is not only an issue of addressing the negative, it also includes highlighting the positive. What has been going on in your practice or company that is worth highlighting? Has a doctor recently been published? Is there a community or charity event you are taking part in? Has there been an exceptional patient story that you can promote (with permission)? These are all opportunities for PR that you can use to promote the good that is going on within your practice. Send out press releases. Find local news sources that are looking for stories. Get the name of your practice and physicians out there with positive news. This will accomplish two things:
- It will create a positive impression of your practice and staff with the community, creating brand recognition.
- If optimized correctly, these releases and stories can also outrank negative reviews in search results, causing negative feedback to be pushed further down and made less visible in the search engine rankings.
- Create a strategy for generating positive feedback.
One of the best ways to counter online defamation is with a flood of positive feedback. A prospective patient is much less likely to take a negative review seriously if there are 30 positive reviews around it than they would if there was only one positive review. Unfortunately, it is almost always the patients with negative reviews that leave feedback, while satisfied patients leave reviews less frequently. This is why a strategy is needed.
- Create a strategy for leaving a great impression.
An offline presence is highly correlated to having a great online impression. Generally, if your office staff is courteous and helpful, your facilities are clean and attractive, and your doctors are knowledgeable with a good bedside manner, people will only have positive things to say. This is why we believe that customer service training is so important for all patient-facing staff.We know this isn’t true 100% of the time, which is why the first four points are so important. Some people always have something negative to say or look for people to blame in a no-fault situation. We know great practices that have had difficult patients. This is why it’s important to control your reputation before your reputation controls your practice.
Getting Started with Online Defamation Protection
Moving forward in the face of online defamation can be difficult. Some practices may be able to handle this themselves. Others may not. If you need any additional help, contact an agency that has a strong approach to reputation management. They should be able to work with your existing teams to handle any issues, or take over the whole project for you.
And if course, if you need an agency, you can always contact us.