bad_reputationWe’ve previously discussed the steps you can take to proactively protect your business’s online reputation, but what happens if the damage is already done? You can’t ignore the problem of bad internet press, but leaping in and responding without a plan or a goal could end up making things worse. If your digital name has been besmirched, whether by others or your own mistakes, here are some tips that will help you mitigate the damage and speed up your recovery.

Admit Your Mistakes and Apologize

The first step to fixing your ailing online image is to be honest with yourself. Are these online grievances against your company legitimate complaints? If so, you’re going to need to acknowledge and address the problem before you can mend your reputation. Otherwise, you’re just slapping a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. If you’re responsible for the mistake, the best thing you can do is get out in front of it, apologize, and let folks know that you’re addressing the problem.

Respond Quickly

If you wait too long to respond, you run the risk of looking either clueless or defiant, which will only serve to fan the flames even further. Let people know you’re on top of things, and keep them updated until the situation is resolved.

Be on Your Best Behavior

When people are saying negative things about your business online, your first inclination may be to lash back at them. However, this kind of behavior—however satisfying it may feel at the moment—will almost certainly come back to bite your online reputation in the backside. So suppress that lizard-brain instinct to go negative and make an effort to present yourself at your best. Whether you’re defending your own actions or refuting a false accusation, be courteous and professional. Even if the original complainer refuses to play nice, the rest of the online world may be swayed by your good behavior.

Accentuate the Positive

In some cases, it may be possible to have the offending content removed. However, when this isn’t practical, your best bet is to provide positive (and even neutral) online content that will displace the negative items in the search engine results pages. Link to existing mentions of your business, issue press releases, write blog posts, and engage the public through social media. Each piece of new media you can coax into the SERPs will offset another piece of negative content, and will give consumers a better impression of your business.

Improving your online reputation can be difficult, but it certainly isn’t impossible. As long as you’re patient, persistent, transparent, and accountable, you’ll stand a much better chance of overcoming any online negativity.