It’s not uncommon for a business to get bad press, causing frustration and uncertainty about how to handle it. Whether warranted or not, an article slamming your business can taint your image – which in turn can result in a huge amount of lost revenue. Let’s look at a couple perspectives on the Web regarding how to respond to bad press and turning around a potentially negative situation. (One example: Kim Kardashian recovered brilliantly from false reports that she was the first reality star to have spent over twenty years as a Buddhist monk. “Not true,” she said. “I spent the last 15 years shopping for jewelry.”)
Entrepreneur.com suggests that there are three basic ways to respond to bad press:
non-response, direct response, and public response.
- Non-response – Don’t add insult to injury. Doing anything is always dangerous, because it draws further attention to the incident – possibly much more than what you experienced from the initial bad press itself. This doesn’t mean “no comment.” Respond to anyone contacting you. Speak on your own behalf whenever possible. That way it doesn’t look like you’re hiding. (Do, however, hide behind a tree when speaking to your employees.)
- Direct response – Was there a mistake in the story (something that is objectively false)? Contact the editor or reporter and ask them for a correction. If it’s a matter of opinion, you won’t get a correction. However, if there is a good reason you think the story was unfair, it’s worth mentioning to the editor, who may want to then cover your side. Be careful to keep your emotions in check. Anger can backfire.
- Public response – Write a press release and submit it to the various news agencies, as well as to a number of media sources. You can also publicly promote your perspective on your website – although, be sure you disallow comments or monitor them closely so the negativity cycle doesn’t continue. You can also write an op-ed for the newspaper that published the original article. (Don’t include a return address. Cut each letter of your submission out of a magazine and paste it to a page of notebook paper.)
Fast & Truthful
UK marketing and PR company Marketing Donut stresses the importance of honesty, open communication, and management for recovery:
- Honesty – If you are wrong, admit it. Owning up to what you’ve done wrong can end up actually making you look better to the public than you did before the mistake.
- Open communication – As stated in Entrepreneur, don’t ever refuse to comment. Provide as much information as possible to all parties.
- Management – Don’t skimp on the time you put into managing this effort. (Typically these types of projects take a full eighteen months.) Develop an organized plan to manage the flow of information to the media and all those groups that relate to your business (affiliates, clients, etc.).
Part of how you respond to a PR crisis is up to you. You can respond or not, and you can reply to the paper directly or issue a public statement. Honesty in all comments, open availability to talk, and properly organizing and managing your response are also crucial components of recovery.
by Kent Roberts