Tuesday, April 23, 2024

How to Write Responses to Negative Online Reviews

The other day I saw a Reddit post from an apartment dweller who wanted to know why the overwhelming majority of online apartment reviews were so viciously, blisteringly bad. I answered that most tenants who are satisfied (or at least not too disappointed) with their apartments don't bother to post reviews at all, while the few genuine rave reviews are often dismissed as something the staff cooked up. You have to get pretty enraged to want to spend the time and effort typing up a bad review. Unfortunately, negative publicity tends to spread much more rapidly than the good stuff.

Has your business gotten a bad review or two? Maybe you made a mistake that infuriated a customer, or maybe the customer got steamed up over something and unjustly decided to blame it on you. Either way, you can't let that poison pollute your social media channel or website unchallenged -- you must clean up the mess quickly, cleanly, and professionally with the right response. So let's look at a few basic rules concerning this important form of reputation management.

Don't Let Your Emotions Dictate Your Response

That initial flush of outrage may compel you to grab your keyboard and hammer out a similarly insulting reply -- the worst thing you could possibly do, since it only fans the flames higher and makes you look like a hothead. Do not stoop to the primitive tactics of the reviewer. Stop, take a few deep breaths, and compose yourself before you compose your response. Taking the high road doesn't just cool the emotional temperature, but it also makes the reviewer look like a caveman by comparison -- which can go a long way toward invalidating the review itself.

Take Responsibility

I learned this lesson second-hand many years ago, when a friend and I were dining out and the waitress kept getting his order wrong. The waitress made excuse after excuse about the kitchen being short-staffed, the waitstaff having problems, the manager being a big meanie and so on. My friend listened patiently and then said: "Yes, but why are you making these things my problem?" You may have the most valid defense in the world for whatever went wrong, but it still went wrong, didn't it? Hold yourself and your team accountable instead of publicly trying to duck responsibility.

Make Gentle Corrections

What if you didn't do anything wrong at all? What if the reviewer simply misinterpreted the situation and decided to blame you for it? You certainly don't want to apologize for an error you didn't make, especially if it leaves the false impression that you offer substandard products or services. In your response, gently point out the truth of the matter without making the reviewer out to be stupid or a liar, noting that you can understand how such a misunderstanding might occur.

Conclude Your Response the Smart Way

If you don't want your response to escalate into a war of words with an aggrieved customer, wrap it up with care. If you accept the blame for what happened, offer to make things right with a refund, a discount on a future purchase, or other such reparations. But don't end the response with an open-ended question such as, "Would you like to discuss the matter further?" This approach invites the reviewer to leave another salty reply for all to see. Instead, encourage the reviewer to contact you offline so you can iron the situation out peacefully.

When in Doubt, Outsource Your Response

Regardless of whether or not you actually fumbled the ball with an angry customer, you don't want to fumble it in your response to a bad review. If you don't trust your ability to reply with a calm, cool, positive tone, hand that task off to a professional copywriter. Business owners facing this dilemma have hired me to craft gracious, constructive responses on their behalf -- and I can do the same for you, so contact me today!

Monday, April 8, 2024

Say Again? The Value of Repetition in Your Marketing Content

"Sorry, I guess I told that story already." You might feel self-consciousness about repeating yourself in conversations, letters, and other communications. That's only natural; after all, you don't want people to think you've lost your marbles, or get tired of hearing from you, or accuse you of lacking imagination. But you don't necessarily need to apologize for repetition in marketing. On the contrary, a certain amount of it can make all the difference between success and failure in marketing your products, services, or overall brand.

Is there a wrong way to repeat yourself? Of course there is. Any competent writing teacher would run a red pencil through redundant statements and repetitive points in a student's work. Even in the world of marketing, you've probably rolled your eyes at those endless landing pages that just keep saying the same thing over and over. But I'm not endorsing repetition within a piece of marketing content; I'm talking about repeating important or compelling points from one marketing piece to another. So let's look at some situations where it actually pays to revisit the same material.

Email Drip Campaigns

If you've worked in sales at all, you know that it takes several "touches" to get a prospective buyer's attention, reinforce your brand in that person's mind, and then finally persuade that person to respond. Email drip campaigns typically take this approach while changing up the content just enough to maintain interest from one message to the next. I've written drip campaigns of anywhere from 16 to 50 emails that cycled through the same handful of services or selling points. (The same strategy holds true for direct mail campaigns, by the way.)

Why doesn't this repetition bore or annoy readers? For one thing, the emails don't get vomited out all at once -- they're sent out every couple of weeks, or every month, or on some other relaxed schedule to avoid hounding the target audience. The next few emails then cover somewhat different ground while refreshing the call to action and basic brand awareness, keeping the sender top of mind over an extended period. By the time the first message gets repeated in a slightly different way, it feels fresh while also triggering a reminder in the reader's head: "Oh yeah, they said something about this a couple months ago, didn't they?" Eventually, the right point strikes home at just the right moment to produce a response.


Your company blog serves as a combination of news center, editorial page, and sales kiosk. Here's your chance to post about different aspects of your brand and business on a regular basis, switching from one focus to another for variety's sake (and to cover all the points you want to convey over time). But once you've made all those points, you can benefit from refreshing them. Keep in mind that people stumble on blogs at random in their online searches. The individual who discovers your blog through a particular post may have never read anything from you on that particular subject -- and you can't expect that person to leaf through all your previous articles on the same subject. So the occasional fresh look at that subject  can help to capture new audience members while reinforcing the points you already made to the older ones.

Repetition can prove downright fun for readers if you make it something of an institution. For instance, I'll often write an annual Halloween, New Year's, or Christmas article that takes a light, humorous approach that relates the content to the holiday in question.


Even in an integrated marketing instrument such as a website, a certain amount of repetition can make sense -- not within individual pages, but across the site as a whole. As with blogs, you can't know for certain which page a potential customer may call up through a Google search. That person might pull up your homepage, your "About Us" page, or a product/service page. Sure, your readers might feel compelled to explore the rest of your site, but in the meantime you need to make sure that page offers some key points about who you are, what you do, and why you're the answer to their needs. You also need to make sure each page concludes with a call to action, just in case they're ready to respond right then and there.

Don't forget that your company blog page is part of your company website. Repetition of key topics inevitably means repeating keywords and key phrases. As you gradually create a critical mass of these words and phrases, your website builds a larger online footprint while gaining authenticity and relevance in the eyes of Google. This does great things for your online rankings without forcing you to build the world's largest site.

As you can see, repetition can help your marketing content instead of hurting it, but only if you go at it strategically. If you struggle to find fresh angles on the same subjects, or if you worry about repeating yourself where you shouldn't, you may benefit from the skills, insights, and creativity of a professional freelance copywriter. I know I've said it many times before, but -- contact me today!