How to tackle negative PR

Bad publicity road sign

United States Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, once said: “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it”. While Franklin lived in the 18th century, his words are even more applicable to today’s society. Thanks to the mass adoption of the internet, negative PR can spread like wildfire. For this reason, reputation management is now an integral skill for any PR professional. While it’s best to be diligent to avoid negative PR in the first place, when it does (inevitably) occur, here are some of the best ways to address it.

Bring the discussion to your site
During these difficult situations, it’s highly recommended that you take the time to communicate fully with your detractors. If you can direct them to your site and respond to them there, this is optimal for repairing the image of your brand. Firstly, people will feel less inclined to launch a vitriolic tirade if their comments are going to be publically viewable on your site. This will help you to deal with the actual facts of the situation (rather than hostile emotions) publicly where everyone can see, demonstrating that you do take the negative criticism seriously and are prepared to handle it head on instead of avoid the issue. If you do invite critics to your site, remember to respond to every comment promptly and thoroughly, or this may diminish your reputation further!

Avoid overreacting
Particularly for solo entrepreneurs, negative criticism of your business can feel like a scathing, personal attack. When such instances occur, it’s easy to get emotional and respond in a way which causes more harm than good. Instead, it’s more productive to weigh up your options and maintain a detached outlook. Always cite third party evidence which substantiates your claims and communicate with a professional, yet empathetic tone – however, avoid sounding condescending or flippant at all costs! If appropriate, a genuine apology is often the best course of action.

Monitor online activity
With digital tools such as RepWarn and Mention, you can monitor the perception of your business and quell any criticisms before they become a significant issue. While channeling detractors to your site is valuable, it’s also important to communicate on community forums and other sites where your product/business is being discussed. By taking the time to engage detractors and provide them with solutions/information, this will inform, update and help to placate hostilities and help to restore your reputation.

Combat bad PR with good PR
While the previous three tips are all effective ways to manage negative PR, once the negative situation begins to calm down, it’s wise to consider how you can improve your PR strategy. This is the optimal time to improve your content marketing efforts and provide expert knowledge/sights to your audience, free of charge. You may also wish to pursue speaking engagements at industry conferences, create a new testimonials page for your site, invite loyal customers write case studies, step-up your efforts on social media or do a number of other things which will help to rebuild trust with your audience.

Go the extra mile to rectify any mistakes, even if it incurs a financial cost. Taking responsibility will minimise the negative impact on the business. After all, a positive brand image is essential if you hope to attain longevity for your business in the digital age.

Image ©Samantha Craddock/123RF.COM

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