With our fast and furious social media-driven world, it’s a given that not everything written about us on the Internet will be positive. The more well-known a business, brand or person becomes, the more prone they are to experience a negative link or online review. In fact, angry clients, customers or followers are two to three times more likely to post about their negative experiences than they are to post something positive.
Understandably, entrepreneurs and influencers will want to remove these reviews and harmful links. Sometimes, though, this is easier said than done, depending on the outlet hosting the negative link. Still, people concerned about negative reviews are not entirely out of luck. There are ways you can have those negative links removed for good to improve your online reputation.
Truth be told
The first consideration one needs to make when coming across a negative review of themselves or their business is the truthfulness of the review. If the assessment is accurate, you would be more successful in salvaging your online reputation by responding to the accusations and attempting to find a mutual resolution.
However, if a link is intentionally harmful or completely untrue, and can be proven as such, the link can typically be removed. The onus is on you to state your case, so it helps to have your ducks in a row before approaching the outlet or website hosting the negative link.
When approaching an outlet to attempt the removal of a negative link, there are several routes you can potentially take. Many articles and outlets have a “report” feature, but contacting the outlet directly is typically more effective. Likewise, most websites have a “Contact Us” section that will give the email address or a phone number where they can be reached directly.
You’re likely to get further in your takedown of negative links through direct contact with the outlet’s sales, editorial, marketing or advertising departments. These departments are typically the ones that handle these sorts of requests. If not, they should at least be able to direct you to the appropriate department that can help.
If you feel particularly bold, you can also reach out to the journalist who wrote the incorrect information. However, take caution; make sure you have your proof organized—this step is integral to a successful takedown request—and state your case succinctly and respectfully.
Stating your case
Once you have the outlet’s attention, how exactly do you go about requesting the takedown respectfully and effectively? For starters, always be polite in your messages to the outlet. This is a situation where you will catch more flies with honey, so to speak. Offer your strong argument for why the review or information was incorrect and why the outlet should remove it.
Because this type of exchange is typically done via email, be sure to include your contact information in all correspondence so that the outlet may contact you if they have any follow-up questions. If you are relegated to a “reporting” form or the site’s message board, it’s still essential that your contact information is made available, and that your message is thorough and concise.
Sometimes, you will state your case in the best way possible, wait several days or weeks and still hear nothing back. If you contact the outlet through emails or other channels and receive no response, it may be time to report the article or get the journalist involved. Keep in mind that these can be viewed as escalation techniques, so be sure to give the outlet ample time to respond to your initial contact attempts.
Social media is also an excellent tool. While it can be a source of some of the negative links plaguing you in your current situation, it can also be leveraged to reach the outlets through their social media accounts. This approach also has the added benefit of garnering attention for your plight. A squeaky wheel often gets the grease, and a squeaky wheel supported by hundreds or thousands of other squeaky wheels will often get immediate attention.
Be wary of taking the “scorched earth” approach immediately. Attempt the less confrontational avenues before you call an outlet to the carpet on social media.
Multiple negative links
What if there are multiple negative links with numerous outlets? This is a challenging situation, and there’s no easy way to wipe out the negative information in one fell swoop, even if the bad press is about the same topic or alleged situation. You will have to reach out to each outlet individually and repeat the above steps in an attempt to have incorrect information removed. In this case, you should personalize each contact to the particular outlet so it doesn’t seem as if you are doing a blanket attempt at reputation repair.
The only exception to this one-by-one rule is if the negative links were sent via a press release. In those cases, you will need to contact the person who disseminated the press release to request a retraction.
More often than not, if you’re respectful and honest in your dealings with outlets, they will be more than willing to work with you and try to find a resolution. Outlets will typically remove negative links if your proof is viable or will at least ask how they can fix the negative information. Most outlets will respond to a takedown notice within a week of the request, so positive results can be expected if one is polite and patient in their dealings with outlets.
It’s never fun when something negative about you or your business hits the Internet. But by following these steps and ensuring your information is well organized, documented and communicated, you can spare yourself a major headache and rescue your online reputation before it goes off the rails.
Lara Rosales is VP of media relations at Otter Public Relations.