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Stay on top of everything? Provide the good products and the best service ever, employ nice and friendly staff? That is the best way to avoid bad publicity, we have been told! Well except that you can never control what happens in the world of business. It takes only one disgruntled client to drag your name to shit or an unforeseen circumstance that causes public outrage…The best way to avoid a PR disaster is to anticipate one, once you do then somehow you are prepared to deal with it.

Once faced with a PR nightmare, the last thing you need to do is panic. Before you even start thinking, appoint a  company spokesperson to handle your communications. That is the only person that will handle everything that has to do with communications regarding the incident. That way you avoid different messages being communicated, you take control of your communications! Do not engage with angry social media users. Not only will you look defensive, but it might lead into a misunderstanding, which will end up appearing more like a becoming a battle.

Listen to the criticism, be objective , get a third party to assess on your behalf, it helps with objectivity. Never say, no comment! If you don’t know what to say,  its better to say, “we are still looking into it”, or “we are still investigating” ,  than to say, “no comment!”

Weigh the damage that has been done, come up with a strong strategic message, that will help your situation. You message must communicate your position. Depending on the root of this bad publicity you have two options

  • Apologize : If it turns out that you were wrong, resulting in serious damages, then there is no need to dance around the issue but to show some humanity and apologize for what has happened in a written statement. Admission of guilt and making reparations always works.
  • Clarify: Sometimes bad publicity is a result of a major misunderstanding. Giving clarity and rectifying the misunderstanding in a written statement is a good way of making everyone see that you are not in the wrong but you were misunderstood. However you might still need to apologize for causing confusion.

Always bear in mind that bad publicity can be easily turned into  something positive. For starters be happy that you are trending then take advantage of the situation. Human beings recognize humanity. You will need to be human for the time being. Add a personal touch to everything you do from that moment onwards until attention has been shifted somewhere else. Meet the complainants, write them personal letters, offer your services. Talk about them and make it very clear that you understand where they are coming from. Show emotion.  Ask questions, approach the problem and apologize! And always keep all stakeholders informed.

Then comes damage control. Depending on your line of business give away prizes, sponsor charities , make public appearances and speak about anything good that’s going on. Before you know it public opinion will shift and you can continue to enjoy good publicity bearing in mind that they haven’t forgotten they are watching you but you are alright for now!

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