This article first appeared as Anthony Bullick’s column in the Daily Post business section on 4 July 2018.

For industries such as leisure and tourism, the summer months represent a potential boost in customer enquiries.

The likely first step for people to find out more about your brand is Google. What does the search engine giant display about your business?

Are there any negative news articles on page one of the results? How many stars out of five do you have in the reviews? Google also shows results from other review sites including Trip Advisor – how does your business fare?

If results are not favourable, take action to avoid customers choosing to visit your competitors instead of you.

The first step is to set up monitoring for people talking about your company. Free tools including Google Alerts and Hootsuite will make this easier.

Next, understand why there are negative comments. Is there a problem with a particular department such as customer service? Or is there an issue operationally eg promises made on the website are not delivered during an experience with you?

If an issue arises online, take a step back and examine the background of the story and the user making the posts.

Put the comment into context:  Is what they are saying factually correct?  Is the user an habitual complainer? Take a look at his/her social media accounts. What else are they saying, and about who?

Once you have an understanding of the situation, it’s time to take action and respond in a measured way.

Speak directly to the person on the same platform: don’t email or phone them if they used Instagram. This process also means that anyone who views the post sees that you have taken ownership.

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

Importantly, take a step back: replies filled with emotion often escalate the situation further. It’s also important to ascertain the facts – never make assumptions.

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 media outlets with an online presence. Positive news stories include new employees, company milestones, charity and community work, and expert commentary.

For more information, visit our dedicated issues and crisis PR agency page.