Proactive vs Defensive

The Main Difference Between Being Proactive or Defensive

The biggest difference between whether your company is being proactive or defensive is who responds first. If the company seems to respond before the topic gains too much traction or seems unheard of then it is proactive. However if the company only seems to release a statement after they generate a lot of heat on the issue then it becomes defensive. Both strategies have their own advantages and disadvantages while proactive has a more moderate effect being defensive can either have really good effects or really poor effects.

Being Proactive

When the issue seems to very serious that is when being proactive is the better approach as you want to be the first to respond. The proactive approach is all about mitigating damage before it can do too much. It’s also good to know that you don’t have to have a problem to be proactive. One example is Brooks Brothers, when you visit their store and give them certain information they will reach out to you and ask about your experience.

Being Defensive

There are also times in which being defensive is the smart approach. Often these are times when there are either faulty accusations or when you are not sure how much they know. This is because if something comes out and you decide to have a press release about it and end up revealing more than they actually know it will be a lot worse for your company. This can also be done outside of litigations or potential lawsuits. Examples of this would be Verizon or warranty companies where if you have an issue they’re not going to be pro-active about it rather make you do all the work with your problem which would be them being defensive.


Proactive Or Defensive Response?

Proactive responses are ways in which the company engages with a negative comment. Typically, “trolls” on social media or attacks by the press are the kinds of negative backlash companies have to deal with. proactive responses is a respective and responsible response. . This is normally approached as a diminish any conflict.

Defensive Responding is when the company response is focused on only validating the company’s actions and denying any validity to the concerns of the press. This strategy is not an efficient way to handle backlash. This type of response will negatively impacts the business to business relationships, as well as your business to consumer relationships.

According to Fast Company, during the “Cola Wars” in the 1980s, the Atlanta-based company was losing market share to rival Pepsi and feeling the pressure to win back consumers swayed by Pepsi’s famous taste test “experiments,” TV advertisements in which blindfolded consumers voted in favor of Pepsi over Coke (Ainsley Harris).

Harris stated that after that, new Coke flopped, and Pepsi sales skyrocketed. But Coke’s response to the crisis offers a lesson in managing innovation gone wrong. The company apologized to the 400,000 customers who wrote letters of complaint, shipped its old formula to stores as “Coca-Cola Classic,” and gradually reduced New Coke’s distribution. By the time the much-maligned new formula disappeared for good, consumers had all but forgotten that it had ever existed.

When you are trying to determine how to respond to irritation messages whether they are false claims, unrelated issues, misunderstandings, or otherwise; remember to be proactive, not defensive. Keep being innovative and learn from your competitors. Alike to author, Austin Kleon’s saying “steal like an artist”, steal like a business owner.


Defensive and Proactive corporate response

It is now very common for a business/firm to be questioned or receive a negative response with regards to their product or services on various platforms, One example of such a platform is social media. Due to the fast-spreading and uncontrollable nature of these comments, a business needs to perform a cooperate response carefully and wisely to avoid a serious public relation crisis for the brand.

Defensive corporate response

Defensive corporate responses are those “official” responses to a comment which deals with no actual impact or help to solve the problem. In some extreme cases, the brand might even try to question the credibility of the commenter as a way to maintain their public image.

The above is the McDonald’s response to a customer’s call to bring back a dish for their menu, one can clearly feel the perfunctoriness in their response.

On the other hand, their response could be much more convincing if they could give out a logical and convincing explanation for why they can not bring back their dish, as they have done below.

Proactive Corporate response

On the other hand, by addressing quickly and proactively to customer’s complain, the brand exhibits a good attitude towards its customers.

The above is a picture of Walmart actively performing the act of corporate responses to a lazy and yet sassy customer who might be potentially trying to deem Walmart to be untransparent and unreliable with their sales events. In another word, he is trying to pick up a confrontation with Walmart on Facebook. However, by actively paying attention to their social media responses, Walmart is being able to respond to this comment quickly enough to deny the implication that the commentor posts on them: that they are not transparent about their sales event.


Proactive and Defensive Responses to Customers

Throughout the process of running a business, there will come a time when the company will be faced with positive or negative reviews. During the age of social media, it is inevitable. In the instance this does happen to a company, it is in their best interest to respond to all comments. This includes both positive and negative comments. Their responses are divided into two categories: proactive and defensive.

Proactive Responses

What does it mean to be proactive with a response? When a customer sends a company a positive or negative response, being proactive is being sure to reach out regardless of what they say. If the response is positive, simply responding and thanking the customer for their feedback gains their respect and trust. It goes a long way to reassure your customers that what they have to say matters. Negative comments should always receive a response. The business should also reach out to the customer for additional information. 

Spotify’s Proactive Response to a Customer

In this instance, spotify was being proactive by responding with their “SpotifyCares” account. They provided the customer with the information they desired. Also, they assured the customer that they can reach out for any other questions they may have. This is a great example of proactive responding from a business via social media.

Defensive Responses

Now that we know what a proactive response is, what is a defensive response? Well, rather than focusing on what would benefit the customer, the company is focused on responding in a way that will protect their company/business. Defensive responses are usually the result of a negative comment, review, or response. Sometimes a business might not know how to properly respond to negative feedback, resulting in the defensive tone.

In this example, a business has just received a somewhat negative comment regarding the amount of outlets in their business location. Instead of apologizing for the inconvenience or reaching out for further information, the company was clearly on the defensive. Dark Horse Espresso was focused on protecting the business image and their practices location. They should have addressed the customer’s remarks and concerns instead.


Defensive vs Proactive Response at a Corporate Level

When someone attacks your company with a bad review or hurtful words, it can be very easy to retaliate with a defensive comment, but is that a smart response? Choosing not to become defensive gives your company a much better image as defensive responses may give your business a bad reputation.

Defensive Responses

At any corporate level, there are going to be negative comments or hate toward your company. Where it may get challenging is, it is the companies responsibility to make a response to most hateful comments to ensure the consumer may get relief about their problem. Though it is crucial to respond in a timely manner it is more important to think through the response to make sure it is not hurtful to your customer.

Proactive Responses

Proactive responses are much more professional and look a lot better for your company. Responding in a timely manner to a complaint in a proactive manner may help settle their unease about your company. Proactive comments may end up resulting in the company giving the consumer a discount or total refund for their issue as seen below with Zappos.


Be Proactive

Defensive Corporate Responses

Defensive corporate responses are the minimum a company can do and are in response to pressing matters. The issue was not addressed before it escalated. When defensive corporate responses occur, they are usually to put out a fire to minimize the loss of customers. It is not the best look, as it usually means that the company did not find this situation to be problematic until it was pointed out by the public and its threatening the success of the company.

Proactive corporate responses

Proactive corporate responses are when companies realize a wrongdoing or a flaw before it is pointed out by the public or published. They are reviewing their content to ensure that it is appropriate and cannot be offensive to others in any way. This is preventing the fire, and is key to a successful business. 


Famous singer Camila Cabello’s tweets from when she was fifteen recently surfaced. They were outrightly racist, using slurs and stereotypes. Cabello gave a defensive corporate response, not addressing it until it was publicly known. However, all she could promise was to not do it again and blamed it on her age and lack of education. It seems less genuine that this apology only came when the tweet was publicly blasted and was not proactive in the slightest.

She stated the following response on Twitter:


Proactive or Defensive?

Companies have an obligation to answer the questions and or the comments made by customers. There are different ways companies could go about this. They could answer back in a proactive or defensive way. Many of us have probably experienced both. So, whats the difference?

Defensive Companies

A defensive company may look like many different things but they all have one thing in common: poor customer service. Defensive companies tend to not have good answers or sometimes not even the right answers to questions or comments. If they do provide an answer, usually it may be defensive rather than helpful. Rather than helping you, they tend to make excuses and sometimes even blame you for any complaints you may have. This obviously is poor customer service.

Proactive Companies

Proactive companies are the opposite of defensive companies: they have good customer service in comparison to a defensive company. Rather than blame the customer or give bland answers, they will try their best to help the customer or answer their feedback more naturally. An example of this I have found was on Wegman’s instagram.

In the comment section, a customer commented that they had a complaint about a product they purchased. Rather than blaming the customer and defending themselves, they offered to help the customer to resolve the issue. This is a good example of not only good customer service but a proactive company. Rather than being defensive, this helps the company have a good image of being proactive and helps the customer in the process.


What makes a Defensive Corporate response into a Proactive one?

For brands, social media is both a blessing and a curse, it gives the company a way to directly see what it’s audience thinks of its products and interact with them. On the other hand, it also gives an opportunity for people dissatisfied with the product or service to create and promote negative content that harms the brand. What is the right way for a brand to respond to negative post about them?

Respond Quickly, and Professionally

A company should try to respond to negative reviews as soon as possible, because the longer that that post is out there the more people will see it and think that the brand doesn’t care enough to respond to complaints. When drafting a response, it is important to not belittle the reviewer or their experience, and discuss what the company will do to help resolve the issue.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Bad-Review-Example-1.jpg

In this example, Honda of Thousand Oaks does a great job of responding to a complaint about their service center. The first thing that Honda did right here was to apologize and make it clear that they were determined to resolve the issue. Another smart move they made was to take the conversation offline, which prevents the negative content from ranking higher on the SERP and less people seeing it.

Advertising Social Media

Difference Between Defensive and Proactive Corporate Response

With attacks coming at a business that could be hurtful on how they are operating, it may be easy to become defensive. This is where social media plays a role in the decision making to be defensive or proactive. Taking that chance to be proactive instead of defensive can make or break the reputation of a company.

A Defensive Response

A defensive response is an impulse reaction to self-protect from harm or threats that can be made from an outsider. There are people who will dislike a company and make it known. It is the companies responsibility to take action and either reply to the attack or let it be. Responding quickly to a comment is important. However, making sure that quick response is made with professional consideration is more important than getting a fast response that is defensive.

A Proactive Approach

Being proactive means that a company or individual takes a professional approach towards responding to individuals who are unhappy. When negative content comes to the eyes of a company it is important to follow the three T approach. Timeless, Transparency, Training. These three things are what will work efficiently to get a proactive response back fast. It shows volume when a company can commit to their wrong doing and make an effort to get things right. This can include stating they are sorry for their mistakes then offering an action such as receiving the store location to make things right.

Ulta’s Proactive Examples:


Responding to Consumers: Proactive and Defensive

A corporation has a responsibility to respond to their consumers whether each customer has a positive or negative concern. Responding to negative comments is especially crucial because it can determine a company’s reputation. With that said, a brand has to respond in a proactive manner, not a defensive one.

Proactive Responding

For example, the customer in the comments below voiced their anger at their late order. DSW however took the time to acknowledge the person’s concern and addressed the reasons behind the issue.

Proactive responding

The Stukent reading states that timeliness, transparency and training are very important. I think that DSW did a fairly good job at hitting those requirements as their respond gives the customer an insight into the delay issue, instead of a roundabout answer. Although, a day had already passed, DSW made sure to respond to it.

Additionally, letting the customer know the direct reasons why their order has been late gives them an insight into situation that they did not have before. That information can make them more understanding, which helps keep brand loyalty when negative experiences come up.

Lastly, the employee that typed out the response is aware of the blame that the company must take responsibility for. The apology at the beginning and again at the end of the response pushes the narrative that “the customer is always right”. It also give DSW a good reputation as it shows that they are taking action to the fix the situation that more customers may also be experiencing.

Defensive Responding

Now lets look at the different approach that a defensive response takes. In this circumstance, a customer expressed their annoyance at a delay in a refund. At first glance the British Airways response may not be seen as defensive, but I think that it is. Their timeliness was well done as it seems that responded within the same day. However, their comment asking the customer to not send multiple tweets is a bit arrogant on the brands part.

That statement does not help the situation, or in their own words, it does “not speed up the process”. By making a customer feel limited in how many times they can contact the company they have a concern about, the sense of trust decreases. Although being bombarded by tons of messages is not the greatest, customers should never feel that they have a cap to how many times they can reach out for help.

Moreover, the airlines does not give the customer an explanation as to why the situation is occurring.

To continue, no where in that response did it say that British Airways takes accountability for the delay, nor did they apologize to their customer.

Defensive Responding

Ultimately, a proactive response means that the company takes accountability and apologizes for the negative experience. A defensive response on the other hand does not directly take responsibility, or show transparency.

For more examples of good and bad responses, check out this article!