The instinct to fight back when your company is attacked can be strong. But it pays to think twice before jumping into a public fray.
You may have seen the Twitter battle royale this weekend between former Square COO Keith Rabois and Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley.
It all started when Rabois tweeted his thoughts on a recent TechCrunch interview with Crowley.
“Wow, who knew 40,000 developers use the @foursquare API…” Crowley then fired back, tweeting “Keep hating… and while you’re doing so Foursquare will keep becoming the location layer for the internet.” The exchange spurred fans to jump into the fray, with one Twitter user admonishing Rabois: “you just lost me as a fan.”
When your product or company is slammed publicly, the instinct to fight back is inevitable. But when, how, and where you go about it can be key to maintaining both clear information in the marketplace and the integrity of your brand’s image.
1. Wait as long as you can to respond. Sure, you operate in an intense, sleep deprived world that is on 24 hours a day, so it’s easy to get sucked into the next thing that comes up on Facebook or Twitter. But when someone's critique of your company gets under your skin, try to wait--even if it's for a few minutes.
“My advice to CEOs is have a temper tantrum, write something down in a place where you can go back and look at it in 30 minutes, then again in an hour, then a day, and decide if you really want to send it out,” advises McAdory Lipscomb, CEO coach and owner of McAdory Management Strategies. “If you still feel that responding is necessary or what you really want, go for it.”
Timeliness of the response can sometimes be a factor, but the outcome is probably going to be negative if you respond too quickly.
2. Set the record straight. If your competitor has said something inaccurate about your product that consumers might actually believe, set the record straight. A response of “I’d like to set the record straight on a couple of facts” should do the trick, says Lipscomb. What began as a PR embarrassment can actually enable a CEO to make positive business points.
3. Never respond alone. “It’s very dangerous to go it alone,” Lipscomb warns. Proper communication in the market affects not only you, but your investors, stockholders, and customers. “Finding a trusted adviser for communications advice is a real step toward management maturity,” Lipscomb says.
4. Use this trump card. At the end of the day, consumers will decide if a critique is justified. While lashing out too quickly generally only adds fuel to the fire, taking the high road may just squash the beef, says Lipscomb. Try: "We appreciate this competitor, but we’ll let the marketplace decide who’s best.” Done. You've deflated the drama.
“Believe it or not, we’re a very forgiving society,” says Lipscomb.
JULIE STRICKLAND covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurial endeavors of all kinds for Inc. Her work has been published in Brooklyn Based and City Limits in New York, the Free Times in Columbia, SC, Real Travel Magazine in London, and Daegu Pockets in South Korea. She lives in New York City. @Jules5168