How Not To Respond to Criticism on a Blog


When I lived in Florida, I used to write letters, on a regular basis, to Floriday Today, the paper of Brevard County. Several were published, and a few even drew responses. But when I started a business, I left that behind. I didn't want to alienate potential customers, so my policy was only to weigh in on issues that affected my industry, and to always, always, always take the high road. It isn't easy, as the following example shows.

On MoreThanDerby, the local blog for the city of Louisville, an author recently posted a negative review about a Halloween attraction called "BooVille." Yes, the post was very critical, but it was backed up with photographs and the author gave good reasons for coming away unimpressed. Several people left comments, most defending Booville, but then one of the owners decided to weigh in, and probably did more to harm his case than to help it.

I would suggest that before you place an article up that contains the amount of savagery that you unleashed on us, you should use some common sense and research your claims a little more. This should apply especially when you are insulting the people that are working there. I would also talk to your therapist about the germophobia issue. I don't mean to be as vicious as you, but you should know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of such mean comments if you intend to continue to write them.

First of all, responding to criticism as a business owners should never be done off the cuff. I understand the frustration this guy feels, because when someone insults your business, it stirs the same emotions that arise when someone insults your children. That is why you always take a deep breath, back away, and think through a clear and concise response. Many times it may not make sense to respond, and the comment should be ignored altogether. More importantly though, always take the high road. An appropriate response to this criticism would have been something like:

I'm really sorry you had such a bad experience with Booville. We have tried very hard to make it a clean, comfortable, and fun experience for all of our guests. Thank you for the feedback. It will help us make Booville a better place.

It's tough. Emotions always run high, especially when criticism comes out of left field. But life is way too short to fight these battles, and taking the high road will earn you the respect of most people. Even false and undeserved criticism usually has a hint of truth. Use that to make your business better.

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For a good example of how to respond to business criticism, check out Plaxo's apology from earlier this year.

  • Agree 100%.

    I am a political blogger, and many times people will leave nasty comments. Taking the high road always yields better results.

    In fact, many times, other readers will do the “dirty work”; which frees you up to think carefully before you respond.

  • Great post. You really can’t lose by taking the high road. I remember a senior mentor of mine telling me that he who raises his voice, essentially loses the debate. It’s true in blogs too.

  • David G

    Great post Rob — “naked service” is not easy and it is sometimes hard to remember that everyone’s entitled to their own opinions.

    In taking the high-road, let me make one observation; remember to keep it real — PR spin won’t placate a passionate commenter or blogger — you have to address their criticism directly or not at all.