Fight Negative Comments With Authenticity

In social media, a buzz word is “authenticity.” In simple terms, authenticity means being genuine, which we all know is important. But in social media, authenticity is everything. You have to be transparent, honest and genuine in any situation.

Authenticity is easy when things are going well, but then what happens when someone posts a less-than-positive comment about your hospital, its services or your employees on their blog, Facebook page or Twitter account? Or what if a major event, such as a confidentiality breach, or a staffing mistake puts patients at risk at your hospital?

While your first instinct may be to go into defense mode, don’t. It’s important to reply directly and Be Real (one of our Hive Core Values). A response like “we’re sorry for any inconveniences we may have caused” doesn’t say you are doing anything to address the problem or concern. But directly apologizing and asking questions such as “how can we help?” will show you are listening and intend to address it. This is especially important when the rest of your audience is waiting to see what happens and waiting to judge you based on your response.

Just as important is the timeliness. Before the Internet, timeliness had a whole different meaning and was related to the print cycle of a newspaper. But now that information can be put on the Internet instantaneously, it’s even more important to address problems quickly. If you don’t discover a problem for 48 hours, it’s impossible to know how far the news spread, whether it’s as simple as an unhappy patient or as serious as a breach of confidentiality.

Even if you don’t have a major event at your hospital, an unhappy patient still deserves to be heard. After all, good news travels fast, but bad news travels faster. This is particularly important to keep in mind when you have a blog or Twitter or Facebook account for your hospital.

So how will you handle it? Will you try to ignore it and hope it goes away, possibly making the problem worse, or will you respond with honesty and sincerity and do your best to remedy the situation?

The good news is that you can prepare yourself and avoid potential disasters by setting a policy for how to respond to negative comments. Discuss details, such as “What will I say when a negative comment appears on my blog?” and “Who will monitor and respond to comments on Twitter, Facebook and other blogs?” Do remember you can’t prevent negative comments from happening, but you can prevent them from spreading by paying attention and responding in an authentic, patient and timely manner.

All that being said, it’s important to trust your audience. While it’s important to monitor chatter about your hospital, you don’t need to worry that a negative comment will be posted everyday, or that an internal problem will cause backlash. Keep in mind one of our Hive Core Values – Trust your community. For every angry patient you deal with, you likely have 10 patients who are extremely happy with your services, and they deserve just as much, if not more, attention.

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Visit our What We Think page to download our free e-book titled “Responding to Negative Comments in Social Media.”

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