I hear about chiropractic marketing scams every week, but this one is outrageous! One of my Los Angeles marketing clients recently called me because his chiropractic clinic had come under attack by a series of horrible reviews. These weren't your typical 1-star reviews written in ALL-CAPS and misspelled either, they were well written and accused the chiropractor of causing physical harm and being grossly incompetent. As a result of these reviews, the clinic saw an immediate decrease in new patients but they were left helpless because they couldn't remove the nasty comments, which appeared prominently in search engines every time someone found them.
A few weeks after the reviews were posted, a sketchy looking company faxed them and claimed that they would remove the reviews and protect the chiropractor from future negative reviews for a hefty (high $100's) monthly fee and a 12-month contract. The give-away was that this company guaranteed that the reviews would be removed -- which is only possible if they wrote the reviews themselves. It's a simple and effective scam that reminds me of the 1930's mafia "you pay me to protect you, or else."
It's an especially difficult situation because it's almost impossible to prove, with absolute certainty, that this company was behind the negative reviews. The internet is also a fairly lawless frontier, which makes the chances of successfully suing this company basically impossible. What's more, after doing some research into the company it became clear that it was a boiler-plate company and was hidden behind 2-3 parent companies, which makes them basically untouchable.
How do you protect yourself? This situation highlights the importance of gathering real, positive reviews from your patients. If you already have 30 honest and friendly reviews on your Google Places, Yelp, and CitySearch accounts, it will make the outrageously negative reviews seem suspicious. Conversely, if you only have a handful of reviews and one of them is horrendous, the negative effects can be crippling. When people look for a chiropractor they want to see a long-term history of positive patient outcomes -- they're not going to gamble with their health.
If you do end up being attacked or extorted, I recommend logging into the review sites and directly responding to the worst reviews. You need to handle this with extreme caution and you should never appear to be arguing with the review. An ideal response should address the negative comments and inform readers that there have been a series of terrible reviews which don't seem to be connected to real patients and may be related to a company that is trying to extort you. Keep the response upbeat, straightforward, and unemotional. It's better to respond than to stay silent.
Under no circumstance should you contact the scam company. Once you're made contact, you'll be on their radar and they will actively target you. If you end up catching their attention, they'll hound you for money and you may even end up being targeted for more negative reviews.
For more advice or information relating to chiropractic marketing scams, contact me at (800) 295-3346.