Every once in awhile your company may face an incident that results in some poor PR. How do you handle this and prevent negative news from becoming a long term reputation?
Firstly, you can find solace in the fact that according to The Economist no press is bad press. The Economist cites Alan Sorensen, an economics professor at Stanford University's School of Business. He believes that for small brands vying for recognition in bustling markets, any PR is beneficial. Sorensen's work concluded that with small businesses who are less well-known, negative impressions fade faster in consumers' minds than their overall awareness of products and services. However this does not mean that you should not try to tackle your PR issue. There are many ways to handle a PR crisis. Ultimately it will be up to your small business to decide on the direction to follow. Here below are various options.
The Silent Treatment
If you feel that your detractors are not that powerful and that the episode would best be ignored as opposed to exacerbated through further noise, then stay quiet. Do not respond to whatever accusations are leveled at you, as doing so may lend credibility to the bad PR. It is not always productive to try to have the last word. The fuss may die down faster if left alone rather. Spend your time working on fixing any problems so as to place your small business in a better position for recovery.
Listen and Learn
If a lot of people are complaining about your small business it may be best to face their accusations head-on. See this as an opportunity for improvement. You can issue a press statement and use social media to acknowledge your faults, stating the measures that your small business is taking to tackle the issue. Do not get angry or emotional nor respond to individual negative comments you find online; remain calm, cool and collected. You can create good PR through bad PR. By demonstrating that you wish to build customer relationships and offer solutions or compensation, you may turn your angry customers into satisfied ones.
Find a Scapegoat
In their Master List of Reputation Repair Strategies, the Institute of Public Relations states that putting the blame on a person or group outside of the organization is one way to handle a PR crisis. As a small business you can learn from larger firms that often employ this strategy. For example, if a company airs a commercial that people find offensive and leads to bad PR, the advertising agency can be blamed and fired. Sometimes companies also offer up an individual scapegoat from within the organization and fire them publicly. By blaming the problem on one high-ranking member of staff or by pointing the finger at an external agent, your small business will be able to direct the outrage away from your small business and censure someone else, effectively evading bad press.
Whatever path you choose remember the old adage: there is no such thing as bad publicity!