Try to understand where the potential for bad publicity may lie in your business and do what you can to resolve issues before they become a problem. For example, this might involve sending poor quality products back to a supplier, introducing stricter health and safety procedures or dealing with unhappy staff.
Be aware of the phenomenal speed at which information spreads, especially via social networking sites, and take quick action to counter bad publicity. For example, if a glitch in the software you market becomes apparent, don’t wait for user complaints to spread virally but use online forums to alert them and explain what you are doing to tackle the problem.
Don’t be afraid to counteract inaccuracies. For example, if you are aware of a Twitter campaign against you, tweet your version of the story. Contact editors if incorrect information has been published, and use your own website and social media presence to dispel misconceptions.
To say you are sorry does not amount in law to an admission of guilt. However, it can show customers, suppliers and other stakeholders that you take your responsibilities seriously and defuse a situation before it gets out of hand.
“No comments”, however, usually imply you are hiding something. Designate one person who is authorised to speak to journalists and ensure all your staff are told that they should direct media enquiries to that person. You may want to consider some level of media training for them.
Answer media questions fully and factually, offering background briefings where necessary. If there are reasons why this is not possible - for example, if you are asked to give confidential customer details or you are waiting for the outcome of an enquiry, explain why you are withholding information.
At times you may feel it is better to offer a written statement. Ask what deadlines journalists face and try at least to offer a holding statement until a fuller explanation is ready.
Understand the media’s need for a story. You may be able to deflect bad publicity by pointing out a bigger story elsewhere. You could also counterbalance bad publicity by pointing out, for example, how many satisfied customers you have.
Review all incidents and consider ways you could have acted differently which would have led to a better outcome.
Finally, rebuild your firm’s reputation by generating good PR- for example, through supporting a charity or promoting positive news stories. Build relations with journalists, so if there is a “next time” they will have some prior understanding of you and your business.
Dominion Acquisitions Ltd realises that the bigger the brand, or the larger your target audience, then the bigger the potential for a few disgruntled people; you can’t please everybody all of the time. Dominion Acquisitions looked at huge brands like Virgin, who are a massive brand with a phenomenal reputation, at that’s not through luck, there have been at times when Richard Branson and his products or business beliefs have come under scrutiny and received bad press. Dominion Acquisitions looked at how they handled negative PR.
So crucial is the continued high profile of Virgin that Mr. Branson says his highest paid and most important employee is Will Whitehorn, his public relations and communications director “ I suspect in most companies, the public relations person is down at number 20 in the pecking order, “ Mr Branson says. “ but here he is fighting incredibly important battles. If a negative story starts running away with itself in the press and it’s not dealt with fast, it can badly damage the brand, and so we put enormous weight on public relations people”.
Dominion Acquisitions Ltd accepts the importance of positive PR, and realises the importance of being pro active in the ensuring a positive brand reputation, and advises the following:
Act speedily to confront and counteract bad publicity
Turn to experts such as lawyers and PR professionals when necessary
Learn from your mistakes
Don’t ignore the power of individuals using Social media to destroy reputations
Don’t be tempted to lie to journalists
And finally don’t assume it is best to keep a low profile after an incident