Negative publicity can cause huge amounts of damage to a business. It could make it harder to attract new customers, leading to a loss of revenue. You may even find that you lose existing customers if the negative publicity is particularly damning. In some cases, you may even find it hard to attract new applicants and form relationships with suppliers.
Fortunately, you can overcome bad press by taking the right steps. Below are some tips on how to correctly deal with negative publicity.
Types of negative publicity
First, it’s worth noting that negative publicity can come in various forms. These include:
- Negative customer reviews: You could find it hard to attract business if you’ve got lots of negative reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp and Trip Advisor.
- Social media comments: Negative social media posts on Twitter and Facebook could go viral and damage your reputation.
- Professional media coverage: News publications, TV channels, radio shows and trusted blogs could publish slanderous news stories or negative reviews.
How you should respond may vary depending on the type of negative publicity. For example, in some cases you cannot respond directly to reviews. With social media comments, you may have the option of a private or public response.
How should you respond?
You may be eager to respond to negative publicity straight away, however it’s important that you take time to form the right response so that you don’t encourage further criticism. Below are some of the steps you should take immediately after receiving negative publicity.
Investigate the truth
It’s possible that people may be spreading lies or false rumours about your business. In some cases, you may be able to tell straight away if the person is telling the truth. In other cases (such as an altercation with an employee while you were not present), you may have to do some investigating to find out the truth. You can make a public statement to tell people that you are investigating the issue.
If the accusation is false, you may be able to compile evidence and use this to publicly defend yourself. You should still avoid lashing out angrily, even if the publicity is false – try to remain calm and professional when giving evidence in your response. If a person is deliberately spreading lies about your business, you may be able to seek legal action.
Make a public apology
In cases where the criticism is true, it’s important that you make a public apology promptly. Don’t remain silent for too long as this could allow negative publicity to build and the public may then be less willing to accept your apology.
If it’s a negative customer review, you may have the option to directly respond to the review (although this isn’t possible with all review platforms such as Google). This guide explains more on how to apologise when responding to reviews.
If it’s a social media post, you have several options 1) either respond directly to the comment publicly 2) privately reply to them via direct message or email or 3) publish a public apology on your social media page. The third option may be better if the comment has already become viral and gained support.
If it’s a negative press story, you may simply want to give a public apology on social media. Alternatively, you may be able to deliver a press statement to media outlets you may then publish your apology.
How to repair the damage
In many cases, you can still salvage your reputation after receiving negative publicity. There are several ways in which you can do this depending on the nature of the publicity. This guide outlines a few steps worth taking.
Fix any problems
Negative publicity can be a chance to learn and improve. If major problems have been brought up, consider how you can fix these problems. In some cases, you may have to take drastic action such as firing an employee who has done something unforgivable. In other cases, you may have to be prepared to pour money into your areas of your business in order to improve them. Make sure that it is publicly known that you are making these changes.
Encourage positive reviews
If the negative publicity is mainly negative customer reviews, consider encouraging more positive reviews to outweigh these negative reviews. A few negative reviews can be easily overlooked if you have lots of positive reviews. You may be able to directly contact happy customers who you’ve worked with in the past and ask them to leave a positive review. Never post false reviews – it’s important that all positive reviews are authentic.
Invest in some SEO
After a public scandal, you may find that negative news stories appear near the top of the search rankings when people search your business on Google. This is clearly not good for your business – consequently, it could be worth pouring money into SEO to try and improve the rankings of more positive content. This could include positive news stories and pages on your website.
Reward your loyal customers
Some of your current customers may be considering using another company. By rewarding loyal customers with discounts and gifts, you may prevent some of your customers from leaving. Rewarding your loyal customers is also likely to turn them into advocates – they may come to your defence if someone else is badmouthing your company.
Reward your loyal staff members
After a huge public scandal, you may find some employees also jump ship. It’s important to reward your loyal staff members so that you don’t lose all of your employees. This could include offering added benefits like bonuses, extra holiday or a promotion.
Consider a rebrand – and a relaunch
You may find that rebranding and relaunching your company is necessary in order to escape your previous reputation. You could go so far as to use a new company name and logo and you could make major changes to your services and products. Many customers may be willing to give you another chance knowing that you’ve taken drastic measures to reform your company. Some customers may not even associate your new company with your old company.