By Anna McDermott

Pauline Frommer, Editorial Director, Frommer Guidebooks and

Online reviews – on Google, Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor – are a big deal. They are the first things that come up with practically any online search. When Nancy interviewed Pauline Frommer – of Frommer’s Guidebooks fame – on her podcast, Pauline talked about the pitfalls of online reviews. She mentioned how some companies pay people to leave positive reviews, even though this is extremely unethical and maybe in some cases illegal. Online reviews often fall into two categories: loved it or hated it. These extremes make it hard for people to get a clear picture if they should buy the product or stay at the hotel.

As a business owner, there is a very good chance that there is at least one platform where people can leave reviews about your products or company. Given that reviews are often 5-star or 1-star (“If I could give zero stars, I would.”), navigating your business’s reviews is tricky and must be handled with clear-eyed care. Reviews can be seen as a PR nightmare or an opportunity to manage and improve your brand. Here are some tips to help you use online reviews to your advantage.

  1. Choose the person to respond. As the owner, it might not be best for you to respond. A senior staff member may be able to respond without as much ego tied up in the business. You want someone who can receive the review notifications from Google, Facebook, etc., and quickly respond but without hurt feelings or anger.
  2. Respond to positive reviews. Always leave a brief response to a positive review. “Thank you for your kind review! We appreciate you taking the time to share your experience with us.” This shows people who are reading the reviews that you are grateful and responsive – qualities that will help boost your brand online.
  3. Respond to negative reviews. Usually. If the person who wrote a negative review has raised some valid concerns about their experience, you should always respond. But sometimes it is clear that they just have an axe to grind. If the review reads like the angry rant of an unbalanced person, you can just ignore it. Readers of the reviews will see that this person may just use online reviews to express their negativity and hate just like an internet troll. Don’t feed the trolls!
  4. Remove false reviews. If there is a negative review that you firmly believe to be a lie, say from a competitor who is trying to sabotage you, you can contact the platform directly and often, if your claim is valid, the review will be removed.
  5. Do not respond with feelings. It always seems a little… unhinged if I read review responses from a business owner and they respond with glorious praise for positive reviews and torrents of rage about negative reviews. Each response is a representation of your brand. Be calm. Courteous. Do not USE ALL CAPS. A simple response like “We are disappointed to learn you did not receive the quality experience we strive to provide for all our guests/patrons/clients. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feel free to email us at if we can remedy the situation.” This response doesn’t show any hurt feelings or anger at the reviewer. It shows a cool-headed businessperson being responsive and professional. It also provides an opportunity to take the anger of the reviewer offline – where you can handle it privately.

The PR Maven® Podcast is presented by Marshall Communications, creator of The Marshall Plan® strategic process. The Marshall Plan is a fully customized document using our 65 proprietary steps and leads to playbook for your success. If you think your business or organization would be a candidate for a Marshall Plan, you can take our Marshall Plan quiz to find out. Visit