Is There Such a Thing as Negative Publicity? We Think So.

We’ve all heard the old adage “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” The rationale for this is that even if the portrayal of your brand or organization is negative, you’re sticontent marketing, content management, newsjacking, social media, digital marketing, SEO, online marketingll getting your name out there. But let’s be realistic. Nobody wants negative publicity. Even if it does mean getting your name out there, it really can be quite bad.

There’s no magic bullet to make bad publicity simply go away once it happens. Still, there is a simple formula to deal with negative publicity.

Respond Quickly

One of the worst things you can do when faced with a negative story about your company is to remain silent. At the moment the story comes out, someone else is controlling the conversation and framing the discussion. That could be a disgruntled customer on social media, a news outlet, a competitor or a combination of these. As Marketing Donut says, “Communication is the key to managing a PR crisis. Keep the media, customers, your staff and suppliers informed.” By responding quickly, you can help reframe the discussion and get your side of the story out there.

Be Up Front

Often, negative publicity comes from some sort of malfeasance or dishonesty. By lying about what happened, you can only make things worse. You will almost certainly be found out eventually. And by hiding key facts or trying to cover up, you’ll be seen as secretive and spur speculation, which could be worse than the actual truth. Consider, for example, Elizabeth Warren’s struggle in 2012 to get past questions about her claims of Native American ancestry. (And consider that if these struggles still make their way into the media and cyberspace four years later, that’s a definite sign that they can be tough to shake!)

Remedy and Move On

You want any negative publicity to be as short-lived as possible. Once you’ve addressed it quickly and honestly, take care of any remedial actions there might be and move on — as much as possible, leave it in the past. What does remedial action look like? Well, that depends on the underlying issue. For example, if there was malfeasance by an employee, that employee should be disciplined and potentially terminated depending on the circumstances. A policy should be designed, or modified, to prevent future, similar issues and communicated, or reinforced, with staff. The important thing is to have meaningful closure, such that the public is satisfied the issue is resolved. A resolved issue makes the story much less interesting and helps end the ongoing coverage.

Regardless of your best efforts, sooner or later you will likely encounter some negative press. It happens to virtually every business, brand and individual. How you respond in the time immediately following this negative attention is key.

One final key point: establishing and maintaining ongoing, positive, trusting relationships with key constituencies—including the media—can be a good way to help minimize the impact of negative situations later.

How have you navigated tough situations? What additional advice would you offer?

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