In business, the old adage that there's no such thing as bad publicity doesn't always ring true. If a negative story about your company has reached the media, the way you respond could have serious implications for your brand and your bottom line. Get your strategy wrong and you could do irreversible damage to your reputation.
If the bad publicity you're getting is accurate, prepare a press release accepting responsibility for the issue concerned. Make sure any comments you make don't have future legal implications. If in doubt, investing in the advice of a lawyer, while costly, could save you money further down the line. State your case and correct any inaccuracies in what's been reported. Distribute your statement to news agencies and post it on your website and social media pages. Make a media-savvy member of your staff available to talk to media outlets.
Put Things Right
Make amends for the situation that's resulted in your company receiving bad press. If you've had to issue a product recall notice, offer your customers a refund or a replacement. If your service has been found wanting, make compensation available. If your working practices have been exposed as being unfair or exploitative, launch an investigation and vow to right any wrongs discovered. Again, run any planned action past your legal team before going public.
Contact the media outlets that have run negative stories about your business to complain if the accusations made against you are false. Firmly ask for a correction, but try not to fall out with the organizations you deal with. It's important for your business to maintain a good relationship with the media. If you can resolve things amicably, all well and good. If not, and if the accusations against you really are 100 percent false, consider talking to a legal professional about suing for libel.
Retain the services of a public relations agency that specializes in firefighting negative publicity if you don't have the know-how or resources to do so in-house. You could make your company's situation a lot worse if you take the wrong line when dealing with accusations made against you. A PR firm will cost money, but may be cheaper than losing trade or facing legal action.
Michael Roennevig has been a journalist since 2003. He has written on politics, the arts, travel and society for publications such as "The Big Issue" and "Which?" Roennevig holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the Surrey Institute and a postgraduate diploma from the National Council for the Training of Journalists at City College, Brighton.