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No matter how hard you try, sometimes bad publicity is just inevitable. Even if your brand or business behaves responsibly, the threat is always present in today’s information age. All it takes is a dissatisfied customer taking to social media to voice their disappoint. After that, it’s easy for this negative image to spread (just see what happened to Justine Sacco‘s story).
Yes. Despite your best efforts, there are just things you can’t control. Negative reviews, customers rallying against your brand, and people on the inside who do not conduct themselves professionally can cause some bad press. Sometimes, there’s just no way to completely prevent bad PR. However, if you are prepared, these PR nightmares will vanish in due time without causing major damage to your business and reputation. Follow these 10 ways in avoiding bad press, you shouldn’t be losing any sleep at night.
10. Stay Away Controversy
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This should be common sense. Unfortunately, many people make horrible decisions that alter their public image. For example, if you’re an editor of a well-known publication, you probably shouldn’t be wearing a Halloween costume that includes the tasteless ‘blackface’ makeup. That’s what French Elle beauty editor Jeanne Deroo did this year. Not only did she go out in public with this terrible ensemble, she posted an image on Instagram which, predictably, spread like a wildfire. The backlash was fast, furious, and deserved. And, the controversial comments from Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson. The list could go on and on.
In short, the best way to avoid a bad public image is the avoid controversy in the first place. While people are entitled to their opinions and free speech, there are things that should be kept behind closed doors if you want to retain a positive public image. Be smart and use common sense.
9. Don’t Stoke The Flames
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If you are hit with bad press, don’t make matters worse by retaliating with attacks of your own. Do you remember Amy’s Baking Company in early 2013? The Scottsdale, AZ company was featured on Kitchen Nightmares, which captured the attention of Redditors who proceeded to flood the company’s Facebook page with comments. Owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglo went on the attack with daily statuses that were vulgar and in all caps. They fell into the trap and stoked the flames of an unforgiving internet.
Social media can be a great asset, or the beginning of your brand’s demise. Don’t invite trolls by stoking the flames.
8. Let Your Work Do The Talking
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If you outperform competitors, people will forget that there was ever an image problem. Do you remember the dark days for Robert Downey, Jr.? The actor had a serious substance abuse problem and was a train wreck. His career and personal life were in jeopardy. What happened? He got some help and began starring in some great movies, like the Iron Man series. Today, nearly everyone loves RDJ and few remember his troubled past. They only see Tony Stark.
7. Sometimes, Silence is Golden
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There are times when it’s best to remain silent. While you should be listening to what consumers are saying about your brand, responding to every negative critique or trying to get in the last word will only create a downward spiral. Let the haters hate. Take the high road and let your performance prove them wrong. A better strategy than having a battle of words online.
6. Don’t Play The Blame Game
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Instead of passing the buck to someone else, take responsibility. If a customer has an issue with a product or service, accept those mistakes and give those people a guarantee that it won’t happen again. People will respect and trust your organization if you take ownership of a problem.
5. Quick and Direct Response
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Before a mounting amount of negative comments and questions become too overwhelming to handle, address these concerns. Begin by acknowledging the problem and assure people you’re looking into the matter. Then, offer the official response after you have the correct information needed to resolve the issue. Even after the official response, it wouldn’t hurt to go back and contact unhappy users personally. A timely and personal response on your end can go a long way in calming a potential PR disaster.
4. Learn From Others/Previous Experiences
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Did you ever put your hand on a hot stove top when you were a kid? What happened? You probably never did it again. We learn from our mistakes. If you have dealt with bad press in the past, how did you handle it? Learn from those past experiences and make sure you don’t repeat the same mistakes!
If you’re fortunate enough to have never experienced negative PR, pay attention to how the greats handle business. Scott Monty from Ford helped ease a potential disaster for the company after Ford issued cease-and-desist orders to users on forums who had posted or altered the company’s logo. Monty personally reached out to the angry users and eased the anger.
3. Hire a Community Manager
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While you most likely have a stellar PR team, a community manager is someone who will keep track of your brand on social media. Not only does this person monitor your online presence, they also manage all of your social media accounts and corporate blogs. When negative comments regarding your brand are being discussed, your community manager spots this activity and discusses a plan of action with your PR team on how to cool things down.
2. Be Prepared With a Contingency Plan
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It’s best to have a contingency plan, just in case the worst case scenario occurs. Hopefully, you’ll never have to put this plan into action. But having it prepared will save you from getting caught off guard. This will make it easier to respond and deal with a potential PR nightmare in a speedy and effective manner.
1. Map Out a Social Media Plan
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Again, being prepared is your best defense when avoiding bad press. For example, do you have a social media plan in place? If not, you should consider creating one. This means establishing guidelines for acceptable content, aka ‘Terms of Service’ for visitors. This includes what kind of comments are allowed on your social media or corporate pages.
You should also establish an escalation plan. This plan includes knowing the comments that need immediate and direct responses, and determining who flags negative comments and initiating guidelines for corporate-wide use. Having this sort of plan in place will prevent you from panicking when negative comments appear. You’ll be ready to handle this negativity promptly and before matters get out of control.
Have you ever had to deal with a PR disaster in the past? If so, how did you handle that scenario? Did you utilize any of the suggestions listed above?