Handling Negative Reviews

Your organization does it’s best to make everyone happy. But once in awhile, a member, donor, parent, parishioner, or student has other opinions… and shares those negative opinions online. So what is a page manager to do? Some choices might be:

  1. Delete the negative comment or review
  2. Reply in the same tone and pick a fight
  3. Open your ears and heart, and offer a dialog
  4. Privately contact the visitor
  5. Delete your social media account so this can never happen again

At Faith in Marketing, we’ve commented on this topic before, relative to a school review. You can read that article here.

This latest episode comes to us from a parish in the Diocese of San Diego:

The visitor wrote, “The building is beautiful. Most of our friends are in this community. However, if you are looking for Catholicism at its best, try another.”

The parish replied [A FULL SEVEN DAYS LATER], “Thank you for your comments. Please feel free to call the office at [number] to set up an appointment with Fr. to discuss ways in which we can make your experience at St. Parish better.”

The visitor replied, “He doesn’t listen, I don’t have time to waste.”

Boom! Conversation is over. Or is it? What do you think the parish should do next?

  • We don’t think they should delete their social media page. It’s a modern, popular, and valuable form of communication. Don’t let one bad instance spoil the many good times.
  • We don’t think they should delete the review. Sure, that would hide it from everybody on earth. But we believe that would show an unwillingness to listen, especially to the person who is obviously reaching out, and cares. All of that said, if the visitor shared profanity or threats, then we believe those comments should be taken seriously, photographed / screen captured, and then deleted for the protection of the public. Threats should be shared with the police.
  • We don’t think the parish should reply in a tone that would pick a fight. And we don’t think the parish should engage in what could be a never-ending, back-and-forth, he-said-she-said. That doesn’t look good or accomplish anything.
  • We don’t believe this message warrants private contact by the parish. In this case, Kathy started the dialog publicly. The parish has offered a phone number, and could offer other ways to reach in, but the parish should not privately contact the visitor… yet. If Kathy asks to be contacted, then by all means, contact her.
  • We believe that in this case, the best course of action is for the Pastor to reply with a personal (but public) note and offer a meeting. After all, Kathy suggested that he doesn’t listen. So, a friendly comment from the pastor would in fact show that he read her message and would like to help her. He could write, “Hello Kathy, this is Fr. Bob. As you can imagine, I am sorry to read when someone does not fully enjoy a visit to our parish. We do our best, but we’re not perfect. I would enjoy sitting with you in person to hear your thoughts and ideas, and I promise to listen twice as much as I speak. Kathy, you can reach me at (555) 555-5555 to schedule a time that works for both of us. I look forward to seeing / meeting you.”

As a bonus…

We believe this dialog is not only valuable for Kathy and the Pastor, but perhaps more importantly, for all others to see. It shows that the parish has a heart, admits its imperfections, is willing to listen / improve. After all, when you are considering joining a school, a parish, or an organization, you want to know that the leadership cares. You want to know they will have an open door for YOU, should you ever need to talk.


It’s certainly possible that Kathy was just having a bad day and wanted to vent. We’ve all been there. She might actually be wrong about what she posted. She might want to apologize. And she might just be a really passionate person who cares very much about her church and her faith. That kind of person can also use their passion to evangelize. The dialog you open might just create your next biggest fan.