It is often said that there is no such thing as bad publicity, but that’s not true. While negative publicity still focuses attention on a company, it can destroy reputation and badly affect sales or production. Negative publicity is almost always unintentional; a company does something it thinks is good, and winds up getting a bad reaction. So how can you deal with the negative effects?
The most important thing is to know what people are saying about your company. You can’t deal with the bad publicity if you don’t hear it. There are programs and services, such as Alerti, which monitor social media channels and keep track of every place your company is mentioned. Whether you use such a service or have your marketing staff do it manually, it is vital to put monitoring in place.
When you spot bad publicity, don’t panic. The worst thing you can do is post a response without considering the situation. Take a deep breath and research the issue. The situation may appear hopeless, but there are ways to turn things around and deal with negative publicity.
The first thing to do is find the source of the problem, and determine exactly why your audience is upset. Some example sources of bad publicity are:
• An honest mistake by someone in your company
• Bad customer service
• Incorrect handling of a customer’s complaint
• An advertising campaign that unexpectedly sends the wrong message
• Illegal activities performed by company staff
• A deliberate attack by competitors, in an attempt to gain market share
Once the source has been identified, it is critical to take positive, decisive action. A swift response based on a robust strategy can save your company’s reputation before too much damage is done. Going beyond the required (or expected) level of service can even turn a negative situation into a positive customer experience.
Before anything else, your company must admit and acknowledge the situation. Trying to hide problems just makes them worse, so put your hand up and accept the blame. This immediately gains trust among your customers, and will encourage vocal support from loyal, long-term clients.
Next, publicly explain what happened. This step requires senior management involvement, as it must be achieved through a company statement that describes the situation. Do not try to justify anything; that almost always sounds like you’re making excuses, so stick to outlining the facts and the problem.
Finally, take decisive action to resolve the issue. If you can do this both tactfully and with good humor, the results can be even better. However, be wary of using too much humor. This can imply that you do not take the problem seriously, even though it is significant to your customers. In especially bad cases, make sure your legal team is aware of the issue and seek their help in phrasing responses and determining how to move forward.
However you deal with negative publicity, never forget your loyal, satisfied customers. Their continued support is an essential part of any response. People who do not know your company are more likely to trust an individual’s opinion than an official company response, so nurture existing clients’ positive opinion and use it to rebuff the negative publicity.