There’s an old adage that says there is no such thing as bad press. However, any business that’s been on the receiving end of it would likely strongly disagree.
And, no business is fully immune to public relations mishaps that, if not handled correctly, can turn into a wave of negative publicity and a loss of business.
PR disasters can be the result of various problems, from distasteful ads, bad reviews, controversial marketing campaigns or slogans, employees having a foot in mouth moment, mistreatment of employees or customers, to hacking/stealing sensitive information and any illegal activity by anyone even remotely associated with your brand.
Here are some tips on how to survive a public relations nightmare:
If the negative press is warranted, own up to it – ignoring the issue will not make it go away. Even though things may get a bit sketchy at first, taking responsibility right after, or soon after the occurrence, being forthcoming and demonstrating your company’s honesty ultimately helps you to restore respect in the public’s opinion.
Bear in mind that a half-hearted apology, even a hint of insincerity, can have a further damaging effect on your company’s public image.
One of the most readily available and effective things you can do to either avoid or reduce negative PR is to strive for transparency – the more the public knows about how your company operates, the less likely a consumer or journalist will have any reason to look for dirt.
While that’s not a guarantee that all companies with ethical business practices will thrive, or that those with questionable business practices will fail, it does help if the public feels that a company is not trying to hide something.
Take Positive Action
Upon showing accountability, show a commitment to repairing negative outcomes. Being proactive without waiting to be required or having to be legislated to do so demonstrates a corporate or social conscience on your part.
Making good can be assisting with correcting the issue, having a real presence in the communities affected, and showing the public that, despite an error, your company wants to be a part of the solution.
For instance, if you have a product that is found to have some kind of defect, openly taking responsibility and offering a recall and taking other steps to correct the error shows your commitment to honesty and your concern about the public. Ensuring public safety and satisfaction results in the public retaining faith in the goodwill of your company.
Nothing is worse than when an individual or an entity makes all kinds of great promises but never actually follows through on them – so stay the course once you’ve made a commitment to repair faults. This also means that you must be realistic and honest when it comes to making promises of what can be done to make things right.
Start with setting reasonable expectations for what can be done and how, and then make sure you honor your commitments.
Once you have owned up to an error, keep the communication going. Even after the initial panic has subsided, stay transparent and allow the public to know exactly what is being done to remedy the situation.
The more the public/affected party is aware of what lengths you are going to, the more likely your company will return to public favor.
And, be mindful of the tone and sincerity of the messages you give, making sure that no communication feels contrived.
Think like consumers/recipients of the messages – how will the intended information sound and feel to them? Always consider publicly responding to negative reviews or commentary on websites where others can voice their opinions. Be real, be authentic, and be kind, no matter what other comments may say.
In today’s digital world, word of mouth can travel quickly. Sometimes too quickly, especially when it comes to negative PR. Since people take to social media and various other forums to spread public opinion, use that to your advantage by being creative and using a sense of humor.
A pizza shop in San Francisco actually printed some of the negative comments posted about the restaurant on their wait staff T-shirts. Their way of dealing with negative reviews was to adopt a sense of humor about it, so one of these T-shirts stated: “The pizza was soooo greasy. I’m assuming this was in part due to the pig fat.”
Be Patient And Flexible
In such unpredictable times, opinions change. The news is forgotten and the next big scandal might take the public’s mind off someone’s mishaps.
Keep in mind that no person or company is ever going to be able to please everybody all of the time – but the way that the general public feels about a PR disaster is ultimately determined by the way the entity reacts to the allegations, true or false, that have been made.
In today’s ever-changing business world, if you want to be a successful entrepreneur – you need to learn to be flexible. Try different avenues and measures to correct or remedy the issue that led to the PR nightmare.
When all else fails, and especially when the statements made about your company are not true, fight for your name and stand up for who you are.
As an entrepreneur, the Internet and social media can be very effective in growing your business – and it can be detrimental to it, as well.
Many companies have not just managed to survive bad press, but also learn from it and come through it in a way that the public views them in a more positive light.
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