Search for your business’ name online. Do it on social media, in search engines and on review sites. Is the content positive, negative or neutral?

If it’s positive, save for checking it for key messages, there’s not much to be concerned about here. If the article is neutral, although it is a missed opportunity to enhance what people think about you, it’s not likely to have damaged your reputation.

But what if the content speaks about your brand in an undesirable manner? A disgruntled customer on Twitter, a negative article on an online news website, or a bad review will erode trust between you and your existing or potential customers.

Social media, including review sites such as Trip Advisor, have given consumers a platform to let friends, family and anyone else who will listen know exactly what they think about your company.

Respond directly to the person on the same site they used: don’t email or phone them if they used Facebook. Responding to them on Facebook, in this scenario, shows anyone who sees the post that you have taken ownership.

Take the issue offline and away from the public eye. In the post, offer them a phone number to ring or email address to use.

Take a step back when responding: emotions that seep into your reply will show through and can escalate the situation further. As well as causing more embarrassment, it can also result in media coverage – dramatically increasing the number of people viewing your business in a negative light.

When it comes to negative news articles, journalists and editors should give you the chance to respond to any claims or allegations before it is published.

Don’t bury your head in the sand – the silence will be filled with rumour. When offering a statement, as well as taking a step back and removing emotion, it’s important to address the issues succinctly.

Get to the point quickly or your reply will be lost in jargon, corporate speak and waffle.

With any response, being open, transparent and honest is the best policy.

Regular and high-quality PR content will also help to push negative articles off of page one of the search engines, limiting its reach and impact.

Draft a press release, commission press-style photography and issue to the media. Positive news stories include new contract wins, office moves, new employees, company milestones, charity and community work, and expert commentary.