When to keep your mouth shut

Posted on: June 27, 2009

Something bad has happened. A terrible comment has been posted about your company, your brand. You think the comment is unfair – what do you do?

You wait.

Resist the urge to steam into the conversation and set people straight.

I run a group on Linkedin for everywoman. In the last 6 months the group has grown steadily to over 300 female entrepreneurs. A while back I posted a request for our community to get involved with editing and improving our Wikipedia entry (everywoman on Wikipedia). It has been up for a while but Wikipedia do not seem happy with it – there are notices questioning its legitimacy on the page.

However, my request for help met with a criticism of everywoman itself (all names have been removed to protect identities). A member of my group said:


At everywoman we place great value  on helping people connect and support eachother. Our Network is buzzing with examples of female entrepreneurs starting and growing businesses with help from the community. How could I, as community manager, undo the damage of our entire Linkedin group getting this negative impression of us?

The community stepped in:

Example comment 1:

“Im not sure that I use Everywoman as well as I could , but it is a great source for making new contacts and friends, you just ned to do as you have done, post comments and get involved, help people if you can with their requests. I love linkedin in general for following up on people that I meet out networking and developing relationships. With our busy lives it seems to fit in really well to spend some time each day connecting…there really are some wonderful people to meet out there.

You mention there anything in particular that you need help with, I will be happy to offer advice and support and I know you will find lots more help on Everywoman if you ask. Wishing you all the best for a happy and productive day”

Example comment 2:

“I agree… that it’s a good way to raise your own profile especially if, like me, you’re self employed. I am involved in another women’s network in Scotland and I’ve had quite a number of people contact me wanting information on Women in Management because they’ve seen my name on Everywoman. By the way the latter also hosts some great conferences where you get to network and hear really interesting speakers. The next one I think is the National in the autumn. I have helped business start ups so happy to be of assistance if you want some help or support. Be positive and keep smiling”


Thus what started off as a negative comment turned into lots of endorsement from women saying how valuable they find everywoman.

Of course, sometimes something happens to do with your brand and you have to explain yourself. For example, when Habitat was accused of using keywords like #iranelection on twitter to draw attention to their tweets.

I think Habitat handled this well in the sense that they held back on comment for a while – obviously investigating what happened – and took it very seriously. They subsequently blamed the incident on an ‘overenthusiastic intern‘. This case was painted as how not to use twitter – but I think its also a good example of dealing with brand criticism. In fact, when I finally read their explanation it brought a smile to my face. Don’t underestimate the power that has to bring people back on side. (Not to mention what the controversy has done for increasing followers to @habitatuk).


2 Responses to "When to keep your mouth shut"

[…] agree with the thrust of this advice and have documented here a positive example of keeping quiet in the face of criticism – and how it resulted in genuine advocates responding to show the organisation in […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This blog is about utilizing and optimizing the social web for business, pleasure and social change

My tweets

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Creative Commons License
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

The views in this blog do not reflect that of my employer