Ever hear the adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything?” In today’s day and age of social media connectivity, don’t you wish sometimes that people would abide by this?  What if it’s your competitor talking badly about you?  Or worse yet, a customer?  How do you handle your responses with grace and without adding fuel to the fire? How can you diffuse a difficult PR situation without making it worse?

No matter how nice you are or how good you are, there will always be someone who does not like you.  Chances are you can just avoid them and practice political politeness.  But what can you do if your competitor is taking it to a place that is potentially harmful to your business and reputation? Here are some tips to help you keep your reputation where it should be, despite a badmouthing competitor.

Scenario 1:  A customer leaves a bad review for you online—what do you do?

First and foremost, take a deep breath. Do not respond immediately.  Is this from a long time customer or a one-time customer? If it’s coming from a long-time customer who has had no issues previously, this may be a good opportunity to take a look at what was done differently this time that was not done previously. If the review came from a first-time customer, this is your chance to build a new relationship and change a bad situation to a possible long-term satisfying relationship.

See if you can do a little internal investigation to see if you can analyze the details of their trip with you. Talk to the chauffeur(s) and see if they can recollect anything unusual from the trip. Once you have some details, reach out to the customer and apologize to them for their disappointment with your services.  Ask if you can speak to them so that you can get to the bottom of the issues they had.  See if there is an opportunity to correct the situation for future trips and reassure them that you are fully invested in their satisfaction.  You would be surprised at how far an apology and acknowledgment goes when dealing with an unhappy customer. Respond publicly to their bad feedback and state the facts and how you are attempting to rectify it.

Scenario 2:  Your competitor is contacting your customers and trying to scare or confuse them with untruths about your business practices and to make themselves look better than you are.

First of all, you should be happy that your competitor is that worried about your talent that they resort to sabatoge.  That must mean that they are afraid of how good you are. The best way to deal with a situation like this is to reinforce your relationship with your client and address any concerns they may have right away.  You should not confront your competitor about the situation as it will just escalate it. Keep focused on your clients and your relationship with them and continue to reinforce that trust. Eventually, people will see your competitor as the problem and your work will speak for itself.

Regardless of which situation may happen, it’s never nice to hear bad things about you or your company.  The truth of the matter is that there is always a good chance you will encounter a situation like this at one point.  The trick in dealing with it is in how you respond to it.  Letting your logical, calm self respond respectfully will go a lot farther than letting your angry, emotional self respond.

When you or your company is slammed publicly, the instinct to fight back is inevitable. But when, how, and where you go about it can be key to maintaining both concise information online and the integrity of your brand’s image.