Healthcare Call Centers

When Something Goes Viral

You Can’t Control What Happens Online, but How You React Is Key

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Content posted on the internet can take on a life of its own, with the masses sharing it, adding comments, and promoting it to more and more people. This is usually an emotional response and seldom an informed decision.

The result is that something posted about you or your call center can go viral. There’s nothing you can do about it. Yet you can control how you react to it. It’s the only thing in your control.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

Though we tend to think of something going viral as a negative occurrence, it can be positive. Don’t lose sight of this.

For positive viral content enjoy it, add fuel to it, and ride it for as long as you can. The only challenge is knowing when the message has run its course. Then it’s time for you to move on as well.

What’s more common, unfortunately, is negative viral content. It’s something we fear but ignoring its potential to appear won’t stop it. Instead, be prepared to react to it wisely to minimize its negative impact.

Here are some tips to dealing with negative viral content online:

Don’t Go on the Offensive

A common response when attacked is to fight back. This seldom helps and often fuels the fire. Whoever first posted the information or was one of the first to promote it, doesn’t care about the truth. They care about attention and feed off it.

The worst thing you could do is have a public conflict with this person. Their followers will defend them, and your followers will defend you. This escalates the situation and prolongs it.

Share Your Perspective Privately with Your Customers

Quickly communicate the truth or—your side of the story—with your customers. Keep your employees informed as well. A mailed letter may have the biggest impact and the least potential for misuse, though it also takes time to produce and deliver.

An email to your customer list is a faster approach. Just be aware that anyone who receives it can easily forward it or post its contents. Even when a supporter’s actions are well-intended, it could make the problem worse.

An email is especially risky if the message is hastily thrown together, has a critical tone, or is defensive.

You may consider posting something on your website but do so only after careful deliberation. It could hurt as much as it helps.

Let Your Supporters Defend You

Avoid the temptation to defend yourself online. Let your supporters do that for you. A carefully worded reaction from a third party could be the first step to vindicate you, lessen the negative impact, and give reasonable people a chance to consider your perspective.


You can’t stop negative information about you or your call center from spreading unabated over the internet. but you can mitigate its impact. Preparation is the first step. Plan how to respond should the time arise. And if it does, don’t panic and work your plan.

Read more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s Healthcare Call Center Essentials, available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News covering the healthcare call center industry. Read his latest book, Sticky Customer Service.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.