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Battling the blogs

What to do if you come under a Web attack


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The proliferation of blogs has taken the art of criticism to a different level. Here are some things you can do if you or your business is subject to a blog attack.

Editor’s note: Last month we ran an article by Julie Bennett on how attacks from the blogoshere can impact franchises. Dealing with blog attacks can be tricky. If you handle them badly, the attacks can escalate and draw even more attention to the perceived problem. If you’re not careful, the negative comments will be the first thing prospective franchisees read about you when they do a Google search. Here’s some blog-prevention advice from franchise experts:

Watch and measure the blog before doing anything, advises public relations maven Rhonda Sanderson of Sanderson & Associates in Chicago. Is it one comment or a series? Often when one franchisee or prospective franchisee posts something negative, another franchisee will jump in and post something in your defense, she says.

Other suggestions include:

Avoid artifice. The 54 million Americans who read blogs frequently are pretty savvy and will know immediately if a franchisor tries to counter negative blogs with extremely positive comments created by headquarters and posted to look like they came from satisfied franchisees.

Avoid intimidation. Attempts to squelch negative comments can shine a spotlight on the issue.

If the online comments continue, Sanderson advises franchisors to address the issue on the blog sites themselves in an unemotional, non-combative way. “You don’t want to make this into a war of words,” she said.

Admit your mistakes. No one expects you to be perfect. But prospective franchisees do want to affiliate with a franchisor who’s responsive and willing to make improvements, according to Sean Kelly of www.franchisepicks.com.

Offer to meet with your detractors to discuss their issues in person. If they refuse to meet and if the negative comments escalate, retain professional advisors, like a PR consultant and an attorney familiar with Internet law, advises New York-based franchise attorney and frequent blogger Paul Steinberg. If you elect to continue an online dialogue with your detractors, the professionals can help script your comments, but the comments themselves should always be posted by a franchise executive, he says.

Keep your employees out of the fray. Comments from well-meaning staff often backfire during an online dialogue.

Anticipate that anything you write will appear on the Internet. If you reach a point where there’s no recourse but legal intervention, ask your attorney to telephone the offending bloggers to warn about a possible lawsuit instead of writing to them.

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