How to Handle Negative Publicity

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Some people like to say that all publicity is good publicity, but any small business owner knows that this isn’t true. Negative publicity can be a disaster for a blossoming business, and you need to get ahead of it as soon as possible.

Negative publicity can result in a loss of clients and customers or even the loss of your business altogether if you’re unable to get it under control. You need to take it seriously, even if the accusations against your business are false.

Let’s discuss how to avoid the negative effects of bad publicity.

Stay Calm and Assess the Situation

We understand that your initial response to negative publicity may be to panic. If you must panic, do so quietly and try to move past it as soon as possible. You have to remain calm in order to take appropriate and productive action.

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Reacting on impulse can make the issue worse. Take a step back, gather information, and try to understand the situation before responding.

If you’ve never had to handle negative publicity before, it’s okay to feel stressed. Don’t let that stress get in the way of your crisis management.

Ideally, you’ll prepare in advance with a crisis management plan that outlines roles, responsibilities, and communication strategies for handling negative publicity. If you haven’t yet had to deal with negative publicity, it’s a good idea to establish this plan no so you have it ready. This will help you stay calm in the future.

Respond Swiftly but Thoughtfully

You have to get ahead of your negative business publicity or else it can get out of control. Address the issue right away to prevent it from escalating. Craft a thoughtful response that acknowledges the concern, shows empathy, and outlines any actions you plan to take.

It can be difficult to respond quickly without being rash or impulsive. It’s helpful to have a PR professional help you with this. They have no emotional stakes in the matter and they have plenty of experience dealing with situations just like yours.

We’ll talk more about how a professional team can help you later in the article.

Be Transparent

Sometimes the bad publicity is based on lies or misconceptions, but what if it isn’t? What if the problem is legitimate? You need to be transparent.

Honesty is key. If there’s a problem, admit it, take responsibility, and share your plan for resolving it. Avoid misleading or evasive responses, or else people will not trust you or your brand.

Don’t try to sweep problems under the rug. Be as direct as possible, but don’t incriminate your business either. Be honest about the wrongdoing, but don’t exaggerate it. You want to be apologetic but also hopeful and positive at the same time.

It’s a tricky balance. Again, a professional can help you with this.

Use the Right Communication Channels

So now that you’ve experienced bad publicity, where are you going to address it? Many businesses make the mistake of choosing one unpopular channel with the fewest number of followers or viewers to address the problem, and this is a huge mistake.

You want to make your response visible and public.

Choose appropriate communication channels to respond with. This could be through press releases, social media, email, or a combination, depending on the situation and your target audience.

Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to at least mention or link to your response, even on your social media channels.

Engage with Stakeholders and Investors

Actively engage with stakeholders, including customers, employees, and the media. Address questions and concerns, and keep them informed of updates and progress. Know that people may lose trust in your business due to the negative publicity, and it’s your job to reassure them.

You can do this both through your public announcements on social media and through press releases, but you can also be more direct. Send emails for a more personal touch, and leave your inbox open to any concerns or questions that people may have.

Monitor Social Media

Keep a close eye on social media and other online platforms where negative publicity can spread quickly. There are over 4 billion people on social media, so news spreads like wildfire.

You can respond to comments and engage with users to manage the narrative, but do so with care. Make sure you’re still being honest and transparent. You don’t want your responses to look too much like “damage control,” even if that is technically what you’re doing.

You can hire professionals to take care of social media chatter, but this is tricky. Again, you don’t want it to look as though you’re hiding anything or covering things up.

Even if you choose not to respond to comments, knowing what people are saying can help you make a plan to move forward.

Seek Legal Help if Necessary

It’s always a good idea to have a legal professional available for issues like these.

If the negative publicity involves legal matters, consult with an attorney or your pre-existing legal team to ensure that your response aligns with all legal requirements.

You can also use your attorney to handle any potential slander or libel going around about your business if the accusations that triggered the negative publicity are false. You don’t have to let people spread lies about your business. Take your power back.

Learn from the Experience

Use the negative publicity as an opportunity for growth and learning. This can be challenging, but remember that you should always be trying to improve. Use negative comments as guides to help you transform your business.

Conduct a post-crisis analysis to determine what went wrong and how to prevent similar issues in the future. Try to be honest with yourself when you’re doing this. It can be challenging to see your own shortcomings laid out in front of you, but it’s worth it to introspect and grow.

Showcase Positive Stories

When there are countless negative stories buzzing around about your business, you need to do your best to showcase the positive things that people have to say. Do this as honestly as possible.

Highlight positive aspects of your company, such as corporate social responsibility initiatives, employee success stories, or customer testimonials, to balance the negative narrative.

You can start encouraging people to leave positive reviews or even reach out to them for testimonials. You could create commercials or social media posts using videos sent in by your customers about their good experiences.

Make sure you’re open about how you’re using this situation to improve. Showcase your growth plan or any new steps you’re taking to turn your business into the best version of itself.

This is also an excellent time to ask for customer and employee feedback. Let people know that you’re listening. Make sure you’re actually enacting change based on these suggestions and comments.

Stay Consistent

Maintain a consistent and cohesive message across all communication channels. Inconsistencies can undermine trust. Customers and shareholders are paying close attention to your business, and any small crack in your consistency can lead to serious distrust.

If you have many employees, make sure they all know what to say when the controversy comes up. Know that customers will ask. Don’t leave your employees to come up with responses on their own or they may feel overwhelmed and say the wrong thing.

You have to guide them. Don’t tell them to lie, but encourage them to be diplomatic in their responses.

Understand that it may take time to rebuild trust. Continue demonstrating your commitment to resolving issues and delivering value to customers.

It can take months or longer to recover from bad publicity, depending on how bad it is. As long as you’ve committed to growth and you’re showing that growth to your customers, you’ll be on the right track.

Seek External Help

If the negative publicity persists or escalates, it’s a good idea to seek assistance from public relations professionals or reputation management experts. As we mentioned before, these people know how to take control of situations like these.

A professional can help you craft a perfect PR response so you can get ahead of your controversy. They won’t be wrapped up in the stress and emotions of the situation, so they’ll be able to approach it with a clear head. This allows you to focus on rebuilding and growth.

Handle Negative Publicity With Poise

Handling negative publicity isn’t easy. It’s stressful, and if you’re not careful, you can make your company’s situation even worse.

As long as you remain transparent, calm, and proactive, you can get ahead of your negative publicity so you can use it as an opportunity to grow and improve your business. Keep an eye on social media, make things right with employees and customers, and consider hiring a legal team and PR team to help you out.

At eReleases, we’re experts in press release distribution for small businesses. We want to help you get over this negative publicity. Contact us to learn more about our PR services today.

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