How to handle negative reviews and comments

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I just read a post on the subject of dealing with negative comments on sites like Yelp and social media. The author says, in a nutshell, that if the statement is factually untrue, and you can prove it, you can ask the site to remove it. If it is an opinion, the author says to, “add a comment to the post explaining your rational [sic] in a non-hostile way and how you plan on addressing the situation.”

I disagree. I would not respond to negative reviews in a public forum. Doing so only invites more negative comments, from the original poster or from others who side with him or see the need to defend him.

An opinion is an opinion. If they didn’t like something, they didn’t like it. Right or wrong, it’s their opinion. Any efforts to defend or explain yourself will only make you look bad. As much as it might hurt, it’s almost always best to ignore these comments, at least publicly.

If you can identify the client who made the post, reach out to them privately. See if you can resolve the issue. Apologize, make amends, offer satisfaction. Do what you can to win back the client, or at least make them see that their public comment was too harsh and retract or amend it.

The author recommends encouraging visitors to the site or thread to contact you privately by email, so you can respond to questions or comments. I’m not sure that’s a good idea. You want people to communicate with you, of course, and that includes negative comments. But if you “make an appearance” on the forum or in the thread to extend this invitation, you leave readers wondering why you didn’t respond to the negative comment(s).

The better way to handle this is before it occurs. Make sure your clients and others who engage with you and your staff are openly and repeatedly encouraged to contact you if they have any questions or concerns. Let them know that if they are unhappy about anything, you want to hear about it. Set up mechanisms that make it easy for people to contact you, even anonymously. And remind them to do so. When people know they can blow off steam directly to you, they may be a little less likely to do it publicly.

One thing the author of this post and I agree on, if you do have negative comments, ask some of your happy clients to post positive comments. If you have enough positive comments, you can effectively bury the negative ones. People are smart. If you have twenty positive comments and one that is critical, most people will put things in context.

I know many attorneys resist getting involved with social media and review sites like Yelp because they don’t want to invite negative comments. But these will occur, if they occur, regardless of your involvement. The better course of action is to be proactive. Set up accounts and invite your clients to share their views. I suspect most will be positive. If an unhappy individual comes along, perhaps even the losing party in an acrimonious case, there will be no need for you to defend yourself, your other clients will do it for you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to handle negative reviews. What do you do, or plan to do, about negative comments?

Make the Phone Ring is my course on Internet marketing for attorneys. Check it out here.

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Internet marketing for attorneys and handymen

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My wife and I hired a handyman yesterday. She found Dan on a review site for trades people. He had nearly 100 positive reviews, more than any other on the site.

Dan doesn’t have his own website. He probably thinks he doesn’t need one. He’s got all that business coming in from the review site and I’m sure he also gets lots of referrals.

But what if that review site shuts down? Yes it does happen. Sites that aren’t making money, sites that are mismanaged, sites that get sold to someone who has different ideas.

Just like that, Dan’s online presence would be gone. All the business from that site, gone.

Then what?

Okay, he would still get referrals. But when the people getting referred go online to “check him out” and find nothing, what do you think they will do? They’ll go find someone else, that’s what they’ll do.

Now then, how about you? What kind of online presence do you have? Do you have a website? If you don’t and someone goes online to “check you out,” what will they find? Bad stuff? No stuff? Don’t you want them to see some good stuff?

If you do have a website but it is hosted on a site that you don’t own, what will you do if that site goes away?

It won’t happen? That’s what everyone who had their sites at Posterous.com said, just before they shut down.

You need your own site. Hosted on your own account. www.yourname.com.

Directory listings and reviews on other sites are fine. Having a page on your firm’s site is fine. You still need your own site.

I get a lot of emails from attorneys who use the email account at their current employer’s law firm. joelaw@myemployerfirmname.com But what happens when they leave that firm? They lose that email address.

A year from now, if someone has a referral and wants to email them, they can’t. They don’t work here anymore. Do they track him down? Who knows.

So, if you’re not ready to create your own website, at least get you own domain name and your own email address that will never change. you@yourname.com

Here are some of the resources I use and recommend for domains and hosting.

And here is my course on Internet marketing for attorneys.

And, if you need a good handyman. . .

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Negative reviews of lawyers

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Apparently, some attorneys have interpreted my suggestion to post a review of your competition on your website to mean, “post a negative review” and don’t like the idea. They think a negative review will reflect badly on them in the eyes of prospective clients or cause the legal community to see them as a trouble maker.

Fair enough. But I never said you had to post a negative review. The point of my post wasn’t that you should report negative information about another attorney in an effort to dissuade prospective clients from hiring them. The point was to mention this lawyer’s name so that when someone searches on that name they will find your site, read your review, and look at what you have to offer.

You don’t have to post negative reviews of lawyers.

You can post a neutral, “here’s what I know about this firm,” review. Talk about what they do, how many attorneys they have, how long they have been around. Basic information you may know about them or can find on their website.

Or, you can post a positive review. Describe cases where you have worked together and how they were always professional and courteous. If you have witnessed them in court and thought they were good, say that. If you have talked to other lawyers who know them and think highly of them, repeat what they have told you.

You can almost always find something nice to say about another lawyer. (What would you tell a jury about them if you were defending them?)

And yes, a neutral or positive review will make you look good in the eyes of prospective clients and keep legal wolves from baying at the moon. But while this may be the safe approach, it may not be the intellectually honest one.

If you think your competition is a scoundrel, if you have proof that they don’t play fair or they are borderline incompetent, if they have numerous complaints against them, do you think it’s right to sweep this under a rug? If your sister was thinking about hiring that lawyer and asked for your opinion, would you lie (by omission) and let her hire them?

You can post a negative review. If it’s fair and you can back up what you say. Will you make some enemies? Probably. The lawyer you outed won’t like you, but so what? Other lawyers may look down on you for breaching the code that says “we protect our own even when they are bad,” but again, so what?

You may make enemies but you will also make friends. You will be admired for being honest and protecting the public. You will be seen as a leader and you will attract people who want to know you and follow you. People will write about you and link to your blog. They will ask to interview you. They will hire you and refer cases to you.

On the other hand, the odds are that your competition isn’t all bad. So, post a balanced review. Comment on the lawyer’s strengths and positive aspects, and also comment about their weaknesses or shortcomings. Talk about the positive first, then the negative. Or, if negative is too strong a word, comment on their differences.

One more thing. If the idea of writing a review about another lawyer makes you queasy and you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. There are other ways to mention the names of your competition.

You can comment on one of their cases you are familiar with.

You can comment on their ads or their website.

You can create a post that includes them in a “directory” of attorneys in your area who do what you do.

You can promote the charity event they are sponsoring. Or congratulate them on getting married, having a child, or winning an award.

If you want more search engine traffic, it doesn’t matter what you say about them. Just make sure you spell their name right.

Learn more about internet marketing for attorneys. Click here.

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How to steal your competitor’s clients

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Would you like to know a simple way to legally and ethically steal clients from other lawyers?

Sure you would. Here’s what to do.

First, who is your number one competitor? The one lawyer or law firm in your market who is tops in your practice area. It doesn’t matter if they are good lawyers or bad lawyers. Just make sure they bring in a lot of business. 

So, who’s client’s would you like to steal?

Got it?

Okay, now, I want you to write a short article about this lawyer or law firm. A review. You can praise them, write about their shortcomings, or do a balanced article and talk about the pluses and minuses of hiring their firm.

Next, publish this article on your website or blog. Make sure it is optimized for search engines. Put the lawyer or firm’s name in your title.

The reason? Well, three out of four people use the Internet to find lawyers. Some begin by doing a search based on the practice area or legal issue. Others hear about a lawyer somewhere and go online to check them out.

When a prospective client goes to Google or Bing to do some due diligence on the lawyer or firm you wrote about, they’ll see your review and come to your site to read it. When they do, they’ll find out about you and what you do and if they like what they see, they may hire you instead.

Every time Joe Lawyer runs a radio ad, for example, lots of prospective clients go online to see what other people think about him. In fact, there’s a good chance they’ll type “Joe Lawyer review” into the search box. You might want to make that the keyword phrase you optimize for.

Just make sure your site shows them why they should hire you instead of Joe.

And that’s how to steal your competitor’s clients. Well, their traffic, anyway.

If you want to get more clients on the Internet, you need this

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Internet Marketing for Attorneys: How to Make the Phone Ring

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The Attorney Marketing Center announced the release of a new course, “Make the Phone Ring: A Step-by-Step System for Attracting Good Clients.” The course is primarily about Internet marketing for attorneys, says David M. Ward, author of the course and CEO of The Attorney Marketing Center, but also shows attorneys how to get more referrals.

Ward, a former practicing attorney, taught himself how to get clients online and says too many attorneys spend money on high priced consultants or expensive websites that bring very poor results. “Internet marketing for attorneys is not that difficult once you know what to do,” he says.

“Make the Phone Ring” shows attorneys how to create an effective website, the basis of marketing online. “Many attorney’s websites are little more than an online brochure which does nothing to differentiate them from other attorneys who offer similar services,” Ward says. “An effective website shows visitors how the attorney is different and why the visitor should choose them.”

Ward says that among other features, an effective website has lots of high quality information that helps people understand their legal problems and the available solutions. “When prospective clients go online, this is precisely what they are looking for. They don’t want ads, they want information,” Ward says. “When your website provides this information, visitors see why they should choose you because you’re not just telling them you know what you’re doing, you’re showing them.”

In addition, a website that provides this information will also attract those prospective clients through search engines and social sharing. “Internet marketing for attorneys is actually quite simple. The more information on your website, the more likely it is that prospective clients will find you and sell themselves on hiring you,” Ward says.

Ward based the course on his system of marketing online. He says that every day his website attracts attorneys who are looking for the solutions he offers and he doesn’t spend a lot of time or money on marketing. Most attorneys can do what he does in a couple of hours a week, he says.

“Make the Phone Ring” is available as a pdf download at Ward’s website. For additional information, please visit The Attorney Marketing Center.

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