5 ways to combat negative press

December 2, 2010

While conducting research on a builder for a recent issue of Professional Builder, I did what most people do first when they want to learn more about a company, or any subject for that matter. I went to Google.

I punched in the builder’s name and was immediately taken aback by the Page 1 search results. Naturally, the first few items related to the company’s website, but the third and fifth items where consumer feedback websites (namely Ripoffreport.com and Pissedconsumer.com) that included abstracts laced with comments blasting the builder for everything from its lousy customer service practices to its shoddy construction quality. I didn’t even have to click a link to realize that there are more than a few unhappy customers that wanted to make their voice heard.

Until then, everything I heard about this builder had been positive. It has a strong reputation for quality and customer service, and the firm is performing well in a very tough economic climate. Heck, the company has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Yet, what the typical home shopper will see during his or her initial online search of that builder will include these scathing comments. It’s safe to say these consumer feedback sites are not good for business, especially when they pop up on the first page of a Google search.

What can builders do to combat negative publicity? I reached out to a few consultants who have helped builders improve their online presence. They offer the following advice:

  • Bury the bad press — Hire an SEO (search engine optimization) expert to improve your company’s Google search results for everything from your websites and blogs to brochures and social media accounts. The idea is to push the bad stuff off the first Google search page.  
  • Join the conversation — If you don’t like what people are saying about your company on consumer feedback sites, consider partaking in the discussion. Create an account name that clearly identifies your firm and let your critics know that you value their feedback and would like to communicate offline to resolve any issues.
  • Become a publisher of quality content — Start a blog, publish an expert white paper, launch a video series — anything that puts your firm in a good light and helps push detrimental items off of page one on Google.
  • Think long term — What ever you do to combat negative press, remember that it’s not a one-time deal. The web moves fast, so you have to continually monitor Google search results and execute on your plan to lesson the impact of unfavorable comments.
  • Turn to the experts — If it’s really bad, consider hiring a public relations firm to help with damage control. This approach is not cheap, but consider the lost sales from consumers who are turned off by the unsavory comments.

David Barista is editorial director of Building Design+Construction and BDCnetwork.com, properties that combined reach more than 100,000 commercial building professionals, including architects, engineers, contractors, and building owners. He has covered the U.S. construction industry for more than a decade, previously serving as editor-in-chief of BD+C, Professional BuilderCustom Builder, and HousingZone.com, covering the U.S. construction industry for more than a decade.