Bad PR is a nightmare and can catch you off guard, but you want to know the worst part? When you’re taken by surprise, all of your forthcoming moves are dictated by your aggressor. And for business owners with reactionary traits, you’re reputation and credibility are tossed into jeopardy when you make decisions by the seat of your pants. PR, whether good or bad, is an inherently strategic discipline and requires preparation.
An Internet troll is someone who comes into a discussion and posts comments designed to upset or disrupt the conversation. Often, in fact, it seems like there is no real purpose behind their comments except to upset everyone else involved. Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response.
For those of you who aren’t strategically inclined, there’s no need to fret. We’ve always got your back at TalenAlexander, so before you put pen-to-paper and send out your scathing first response have a look at this list of tips for PR. By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll have a clear understanding of PR Do’s and Don’ts.
At TA, we believe it’s important to have a first response plan/policy in place in reacting to bad press. In order to keep from being “behind-the-8-ball,” let’s define a few potential threats to your credibility.
You’re competitors by nature are a potential threat and are in a class of their own. Their PR has a greater reach, and implications made public by them are to be ranked higher than other threats. While competitors are focused on making their own organizations the best, they are fully aware of your market share. You can be sure any opportunity to diminish your portion as a result of a blunder will be publicized.
If you’re not familiar with a ‘troll,’ Psychology Today defines them as, “Someone who comes into a discussion and posts comments designed to upset or disrupt the conversation. Often, in fact, it seems like there is no real purpose behind their comments except to upset everyone else involved. Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response.” To be clear, trolls are merely instigators.
And lastly are journalists, who are typically held to the standard of objectivity in their reporting. Journalists are scribes to the general public and provide transparency and accountability in newsworthy events. Erring on the side of a journalist can be grave, as you’ve surely made an enemy who can/will articulately voice their opinion. However, journalists are not inherently an enemy nor competition — utilize the opportunity to establish a good relationship among members of the media.
The threats to your organization’s brand can be managed for either of these groups/individuals, but there are also ways in which they shouldn’t be handled. As we go through each tip, be sure to zero in on the information for best practices.
Bad PR Response Do’s & Don’ts
- Use the comment section
- DO – Address questions/comments/concerns openly and publicly
- When you’re hit with bad PR or a company blunder becomes public knowledge, you’re most accessible to the public via social media. In the event of bad PR, undoubtedly a dialogue between brand loyalists and the general public will rule your social media accounts. It’s important to respond only to legitimate inquiry/concern. It’s also important to remember that every dig on social media isn’t meant as a declaration of war, so try to have some fun.
- DON’T – Feed the trolls
- Contact the publication’s Editor
- DO – Ensure the information was correct
- If you know for sure the information published about your organization was falsified or incomplete, it’s best to contact the press. More than likely they will seek a statement from you, and in the event their information is inaccurate, use it as an opportunity to clarify the details. In some events, a retraction statement may be issued.
- DON’T – Hide from the media
- In the event the content you released ‘exaggerated the truth,’ it’s best to come clean. Backtracking or circling around your previous statements can be considered omissions of guilt.
- Releasing information
- DO – Share correct information
- As noted before, it’s best to share truthful information, less you come under fire by members of the press. In situations where the truth is fabricated on account of a journalist or competitor, the possibility of a retraction statement exists. Therefore, it’s best not to hide, and instead face the media directly.
- DON’T – Invent an obviously implausible cover story
- Inventing a cover up story will only further hurt your reputation, as the implications against you will hold more merit. It’s best to be honest and forthcoming with your audience/consumer base in maintaining a healthy relationship.
- Managing relationships with the Media
- DO – Try to win over the writer
- As a preventative measure before any instances of bad PR occur, it’s best to become acquainted with media contacts. Editors and journalists alike keep a network of sources, and if in a jam could be your saving grace. But don’t try to sway journalists from their objective standpoint, as it could prompt them to release information that have previously been revealed in confidence.
- DON’T – Refuse to speak to the press
- Refusing to speak to the press only makes their inquiry more pervasive. It’s the media’s job to report on newsworthy events and you can be sure that established news outlets will be persistent in getting their story. It’s best to get out in front of a bad story and direct the narrative of your organization.
- Move on
- DO – Outperform your critics
- The best defense for bad PR is to simply outperform your detractors. Whether what they say or not is truthful, numbers don’t lie. While this isn’t meant to green-light illegal or immoral business practices, the truth of public opinion is that they prefer facts. We all do, and in light of what you may know to be true, it’s better to be able to prove your point.
- DON’T – Attack your allies
- In truth, shifting the blame from yourself to your employees or business partners may work. However, it can backfire in that as a business owner you’re in charge of who you take on as part of your organization. Duly, if shifting the blame becomes a habit, it can/will cause considerable damage to your business relationships.
All this said, it’s important to remember that these tips cannot prevent negative content from being written about your business. These steps are merely here to help you make the best first-response decision to bad press. It is inevitable that there will be nay-sayers who aren’t fans of the fantastic work you’re doing. The only way to silence critics is to operate with best practices, establish a network of media professionals , and focus on your brand.