Criticisms made online are especially harmful because they are often made on a public page, allowing them to be seen by a large number of people. Unlike verbal attacks, the written word can persist for many years and thus have a lasting effect on readers. Site owners can delete them, of course, but this is not the most effective reputation management strategy. Instead of ignoring or deleting these negative comments, the best way to deal with them is to meet them head on. 

Quick Recognition
This does mean that you should go on the defensive, fight fire with fire, and start a word war. Rather, it means acknowledging the existence of the unflattering comment and any truth that might be behind the criticism. This recognition must be made as quickly as possible so that people visiting the site or the social network page can get your side of the matter before things get worse. Delays will only result in more readers having a skewed view of the incident. Remember that silence favors the critic. Enable the notification features so that you will be alerted the moment anyone makes a comment on your online properties. Some blogs can even be set to hold comments for review and approval prior to publishing, giving ample time to reply if necessary. 

Maintain Composure
Keep your emotions in check however hurtful the criticism might be. This can be a difficult task in some situations but you must keep in mind that such comments must never be taken personally and that even the best have to deal with these from time to time. You cannot take control of a situation if you cannot control your own emotions. Instead of launching a counterattack, be courteous and kind to show other readers that you are a true professional. This will reflect well on you and may win you more supporters as a result. Analyze the criticisms objectively and be candid enough to admit fault if you find any. If the other person has valid arguments then go ahead and say so. Present your own arguments in a calm manner and stick to the issues at hand. Choose your words carefully so as to make your points clear and unmistakable, with a gentle yet firm tone.

Show Alternatives
More often than not, criticisms will come from truly negative experiences with a product, a salesperson, a company representative, and so on. While these may be amplified by emotions and coated in unpleasant language, they still hold some truth that must be looked into at the very least. An acknowledgement might pacify them but go one step further and provide them with a number of alternatives. If the same situation were to happen again, what could they do to prevent a recurrence of their bad experience? In their current situation, what can be done to rectify their perceived wrongs? Put yourself in their situation and find acceptable solutions. Let them choose the one that suits them best. This will not only set things right but make them feel empowered again as your customers. 

Learn from Experience
We become strong by overcoming obstacles. Treat every form of criticism as a learning experience — a step on the ladder of success. Instead of dreading each negative comment, think of them as opportunities to sharpen your customer service and crisis management skills. In time, they will become routine occurrences which won’t cause as much stress as before. You may see patterns emerging from these criticisms and formulate a plan to effective deal with them. This way, response becomes quick and precise. If you have people under you then train them how to handle various issues by sharing the things you have learned along the way. It is always important to have a unified strategy when dealing with customer grievances. Assign point-persons and follow a common protocol.
Reputation is one of the most cherished assets in any business endeavor. People want to deal with those whom they can trust and feel comfortable working with. Take care of your reputation by being proactive in promoting your brand and handling any criticisms that come your way. Negative comments, when managed well, can become positive experiences for the company.
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