A star rating or a slating – dealing with online reviews

July 11, 2013
Three people looking at laptop

Running a successful hospitality business can be challenging in so many ways but protecting the reputation of the establishment is, as it is with any kind of business, of paramount importance.  Warren Buffet, the successful American businessman, said that “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently”.

One issue that hoteliers, restaurateurs, bar owners and others often have to grapple with is online reviews.  It’s an issue on the rise as anyone with access to the internet is able to be a critic.  There is nothing to fear when it comes to genuine honest criticism and feedback from those who have actually visited your establishment but, unfortunately, all too often it is questionable whether an online review has any basis in fact at all. 

Whether or not to engage with negative online “reviews” and, if so, how best to go about it, can be difficult questions to answer.  In reality there is no hard and fast rule and much will depend on how you assess and categorise the “reviewer”, their likely influence, and the prominence of the “review” itself.  Unfortunately, that’s often a very difficult assessment to make – not least because situations are rarely the same, so past practice is not necessarily helpful, and because it is extremely hard to predict with any degree of certainty the reaction of the “reviewer” (often anonymous), the publisher of the “review” (e.g. the host website or blog) and, particularly, any mischievous third parties.

As a result, deciding whether or not to respond to a negative online review (or indeed to any person who has posted something negative on social media) is probably best reached through discussion with your communication professionals and, from time to time, it may be advisable or necessary to seek legal advice (e.g. if the piece is defamatory, threatening or seriously damaging).

Having said that, we think that the US Air Force, believe it or not, has some useful tips which you might want to bear in mind!  Whilst it may at first seem odd, when deciding what to do about a particular online review relating to the hospitality sector, to refer to the US Air Force’s own strategy, their flowchart determining how they choose to engage with social media is in fact a useful and relevant tool.  Situations don’t always fit neatly into the Air Force’s tidy boxes, but their strategy should nevertheless assist you in making any decision as to whether or not to respond to a negative online review. The US Air Force’s strategy is reproduced below by permission of the US Air Force Public Affairs Agency (and it is also available by clicking here

If you would like to discuss any of these issues further, please contact Gideon Benaim from our reputation protection team.

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Gideon Benaim
Gideon Benaim

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