8 Tips for Handling Negative Publicity on the Internet

8 Tips for Handling Negative Publicity on the Internet

Bad publicity is everywhere online, from negative reviews, to news articles, to social media. With so many voices on the web, it’s almost impossible for a company to escape criticism even just for a minor lapse in customer service. When it comes to a real problem - a service goes down for instance, or a faulty product is recalled - the news will spread like wildfire and soon it will be all anyone can find about your brand online.

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Bad PR is sometimes Inevitable

Negative stories that go viral can destroy a company’s reputation and hurt business almost immediately. Unfortunately, bad publicity happens even to good companies. There will always be a few negative reviews, and serious service breakdowns are often due to an accident or an event that was not foreseeable. Every company faces unflattering results on the internet sooner or later, so it’s no good crossing your fingers and hoping it won’t happen to you.

What Can You Do?

The good news is that there are many actions you can take to limit the damage. A well-established online reputation automatically helps to make bad publicity less serious. At ReputationDefender, we assist clients with building an online reputation and help companies generate positive search suggestions based on Google’s Autocomplete algorithm.

The company’s response in the first stages of a problem can also make a big difference. Many companies have turned negative stories into positive ones simply by dealing with the issue in an open, professional manor.

Here are 8 tips for minimising bad publicity, both before and after the event occurs:

  1. Make a Plan – Reputational risk varies across different industries. Inform yourself of the potential issues which could damage the brand’s reputation and decide how you will deal with them if and when they occur. It may help to research what has worked (or failed to work) for other companies in the past.
  2. Be Proactive – Don’t wait for bad publicity to find you. If a problem occurs with a product or service, inform customers as soon as possible. Post regular updates on the website or on social media profiles. If the problem turns out to be less serious than you thought, customers will respect your sense of caution.
  3. Designate a PR Spokesperson – News channels are always looking for a story and they will continue to cover the problem as it evolves. Failing to comment will be taken as a sign of guilt, so it’s important to have someone ready to share what’s going on, preferably an experienced publicity professional who’s comfortable thinking and talking on their feet. This person should be chosen and briefed when you make the original plan.
  4. Explain What Happened – Share a fact-based version of the story to counter any outlandish rumours or gossip-mongering. Explain exactly what happened, how you are fixing it and what you will do to ensure it doesn’t recur in the future.
  5. Apologise if Appropriate – It the company was at fault, accept blame and apologise. Even if you weren’t at fault, it can still be appropriate to apologise for customers’ inconvenience. Don’t blame individual staff. Accept responsibility for the problem as a whole.
  6. Keep the Problem in Proportion – This probably wasn’t the only thing that happened at the company this week. Continue to share positive stories as well, especially if there are a large number of customers who weren’t affected.
  7. Figure out What Went Wrong and Fix It – After the issue has passed, review what happened and analyse how staff could have acted differently. Focus improvement strategies on the departments that seem to be at the root of the problem.
  8. Rebuild – Help to put the issue behind you with a campaign that will generate new, heavy-traffic results (a special offer, a contest, a charity fundraising drive etc.). These positive, up-to-date results will quickly start to outrank the negative story.

Handling negative PR can be difficult, so don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. If your company is currently facing bad publicity, contact ReputationDefender for more information.

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Posted on 25 April 2017 by Tony McChrystal

Tagged reputation, businesses, crisis management