It's mid-afternoon and you learn—a little too late—that a blog post badmouthing your company has just gone viral. Rohit Bhargava offers a five-step plan for dousing the flames of these online wildfires:

Identify the players. Says Bhargava, "Every blog crisis has three categories of participants: the source, the commenters and the promoters." Take notes as you follow links to determine who started the discussion, who offered feedback and who spread the story at other online venues.

Gauge the situation. By observing how many people have joined in, the tone of their observations and when they last commented or published blog posts, you can assess the scope of the problem.

Respond authentically. A real person with an actual point of view needs to say something in the comment section. "This may be an apology, or a promise to investigate further, or a correction of fact," he says.

Tell your own story. Offer your perspective at a social media outlet controlled by your company—a corporate blog, for instance. Promoters will likely link to your post in ongoing commentary, and this might even move the ongoing conversation to your turf.

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