How to Handle Negative Publicity on Social Media Sites

There has been an ongoing discussion in the international education field on how to handle the rogue, or simply unhappy, student who spouts off on his her blog/facebook/orkut/renren/twitter page about how upset they are with their educational institution.

The question educators always have is: how to handle negative publicity about your institution on social media sites?

The first response is always: just make it disappear.
“If we pretend as if it never happened no one will ever know, right?”
Unfortunately, no.
In fact, deleting a negative comment or taking down a flagrant post written by an upset student is the last thing you want to do.
It is difficult to watch it sit there and essentially gather more negative publicity but one of the main concepts behind the draw of social media is people feel they can share their opinions. In turn, friends value those opinions and trust their contacts’ views, which help them create impressions and perspective on topics they know less about. Taking a student’s post down essentially takes their voice away, violating their free speech and will only serve to make them more upset.

Having sat through numerous discussions on this topic the answer that always wins is to approach the student in the online space where the comment was created and begin an open, public dialogue. As difficult as it may be, publicly apologize for the mistake and explain how you can improve the students’ situation.
Be clear, concise and detailed.
Avoid placing blame or forging a personal attack. Remember, the customer (your student) is always right, even when they aren’t. Reaching out into their space and showing you are willing to right the situation will go a long way for the student, and their 374 friends, in addition to other outside users who may read the post.

In essence, nothing is perfect all of the time. If you make real life situations disappear eventually the institution seems un-credible because nothing ever goes wrong.

More realistic is having your ear to the ground, reading the social media produced by your students and engaging with them in their space. By responding to the post in a rational manner offering solutions you are creating a positive image of your institution.

This will go a long way when the students and their friends see the public response and realize how far the institution is willing to go to make their students happy.

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5 responses to “How to Handle Negative Publicity on Social Media Sites

  • David Comp

    Nice post MacKenzie. Great advice!

  • jeramyutgw

    I agree with David – this is an important skill to have!

  • Jørgen

    We engage with the student as quickly as possible online and face-to-face – to understand his or her perspective and clarify our institutions position, and, if required, make adjustments. However, often situations, may relate to issues outside our control, e.g. legal obligations in relation to Immigration Service, in which we are required to act. Openness and dialogue as quickly as possible is my strategy.

  • MacKenzie Hizon

    Great, comment Jørgen. Thanks for your feedback as well, David and Jeramy.

  • intledtech

    Ironically, just a few days after I published post I had a personal experience with a person posting a flagrant comment on our YouTube channel. This was a discriminatory, racist comment from a seemingness random person, not a legitimate complaint from a student. Although I can’t be sure by the username that the person isn’t a student after perusing their YouTube channel, I don’t believe it is.

    In this case I did delete the comment because it was very offensive to both our international students and our staff. I have sent the user a private message saying if they have a specific complaint or issue to contact me directly and I will be happy to assist them.

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