Ronn Torrossian
Ronn Torossian

Social media, a powerful tool for brand building and engagement, can also unleash the fury of online outrage. A single misstep, insensitive comment or product defect can trigger a tsunami of negative comments, tweets and reviews, threatening to engulf a brand's reputation.

Facing this digital firestorm, brands often scramble for damage control, desperately seeking to extinguish the flames. But what if, instead of simply dousing the fire, companies could harness its embers and transform them into a force for good? This is precisely where companies can start turning the trolls into brand champions.

Audience members

Before embarking on this potentially transformative journey, companies must understand the diverse denizens of the online outrage landscape. Not all negativity stems from the same source. Some are disgruntled customers, their anger born from genuine grievances with a company's product or service. These individuals require prompt, transparent and empathetic engagement, addressing their concerns head-on to defuse their frustration.

Then there are the professional trolls, fueled by disruption rather than genuine anger. Engaging with them only feeds their fire, so starve them of the attention they crave and focus the company's efforts elsewhere.

Finally, companies can encounter the attention seekers, whose negativity stems from a desire for a reaction. Ignoring them sends a powerful message that their theatrics hold no weight.


Crisis PR is the essential shield against online storms. Preparation is key. Before the flames rise, develop a comprehensive crisis communication plan. Define roles, responsibilities, communication protocols and key messaging to ensure a unified and timely response.

Active monitoring is crucial which means companies should track online mentions and sentiment, which allows them to nip potential issues in the bud before they escalate.

Authenticity and transparency

At the heart of effective crisis PR lies authenticity. Companies should let go of the corporate jargon and robotic responses. They need to communicate with empathy and humility, recognizing their own fallibility.

Transparency is another great ally. Don't shy away from acknowledging mistakes. Own them, explain the situation and outline corrective actions. While trolls may thrive on chaos, a genuine vulnerability can disarm them and resonate with the audience.

Brand advocacy

Beyond mere damage control, we can tap into the potential of transforming negativity into brand advocacy. Humor, a well-placed joke, or a witty GIF can disarm tense situations and turn frowns upside down.

Storytelling weaves a powerful spell. Share the human stories behind the brand, connecting with the audience on an emotional level. Empower the brand advocates. Encourage positive testimonials, showcase genuine customer experiences, and let the dedicated fans be the company's voice.

Remember, negative feedback, though painful, also holds valuable insights. Harness the lessons to improve products, services or communication, demonstrating a commitment to growth.

Resist the urge to delete

Transparency trumps censorship. Deleting anything only fuels speculation and portrays the company as defensive.

Respond promptly

Acknowledge concerns within 24 hours, showing the company cares and is responsive.

Personalize the response

Forget the generic copy-paste replies. Use the user's name, address their specific concerns and show the company is truly listening.

Focus on solutions

Don't get bogged down in justifications. Offer solutions, explain corrective actions and demonstrate a commitment to resolution.

Take the conversation offline

For complex issues or heated exchanges, offer to move the conversation to direct messages or email for a more nuanced discussion.

Ronn Torossian is the founder of 5WPR a top PR agency.