While it may seem like the end of the world when controversy slams directly into your company, there is a chance you can actually use it to your advantage. Though this might sound improbable when you think of some of last year’s great scandals like Cooks Source Magazine or Tony Heyward’s remarks after the BP oil spill, sometimes foresight can actually turn a potential disaster into a newsworthy turnaround …. But read on before you think I’m advocating bad behavior!
The big difference between companies that roll over during a controversy and those that succeed is a focus on planning. When controversy strikes and the whole world is focused squarely on you, you want to know exactly what to do without hesitation. Often the first day, even the first few hours, makes the biggest difference when responding to a situation.
Reacting to a controversial situation without a plan can work. It’s just that when you simply react like that, there’s a greater chance you’ll do something irresponsible or rash.
Say your situation is a product misfire – one of your hot toys has an error in the computer and it said some inappropriate phrases to kids. Your initial reaction might be to pull all the toys off the shelves immediately.
However, a more planned reaction is to research the faulty hardware first. Upon doing that, you discover there’s a clear map of where the offending toys are. As a result, you only need to pull that area’s product.
In the second scenario, your planned response was due to thinking ahead – what do we do if there’s a problem with a product? Step one was to research the root cause. The more reactionary response did get rid of the problem, but it also got rid of your product on the shelves and gave the false impression your entire line was faulty.
Turning It Around
When people say “there’s no such thing as bad press,” what they really mean is it’s always a good thing when the public stops and pays attention to your company for a minute. And, of course, there IS such a thing as bad press – if your favorite brand was found to have feasted on newborn kittens on a regular basis, would you still buy from them?
What that saying is good for, though, is implying that you can turn a bad situation into sales in the future. This is a great mentality to have, too, as it keeps you from just pulling the plug and running when the proverbial poop hits the proverbial fan!
To really use the controversy to your advantage, you must be able to fix the situation. If those toys break and insult little children, you should pull the offending toys and apologize – both to the families hurt and the nation/world at large. When it comes to the families, free stuff always works wonders. The point to keep in mind is that your company has to really change if you did something wrong – not just use PR to pay change lip service.
Speaking of free stuff, creating a discount or coupon code could bring in some new sales once things die down a bit. Plus, it could help warm over old fans who cooled off to your store when the controversy began!
Have you weathered a major controversy before? How did it go?
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download a free copy of the PR Checklist – a 24 point list of Press Release Dos and Don’ts here: http://www.ereleases.com/prchecklist.html