Imagine the internet and press are abuzz with news about your firm slipping up. Perhaps it’s something minor, but embarrassing, like a misconstrued image on an ad or misspelled text. Perhaps it’s something far more serious, such as incidents that are related to injuries or that have a long-term legal impact.
Bad press is a crossroads for a company or a brand, one that they have to cross periodically. With the right steps, companies can regain their footing and potentially gain additional goodwill. Mishandling the issue, however, will damage public perception, perhaps permanently.
Members of Forbes Coaches Council discuss what to do in the event your brand’s name is at the center of a PR nightmare.
1. Take Time To Talk With Your People
A big mistake companies make during a crisis is forgetting to communicate with their employees. Don’t get so defensive that you confuse your own people on the truth and the issues. By taking the time to engage your internal community, you activate your internal consultants to help create solutions and align your customer experience with your leadership message. –Meredith Moore Crosby, Leverette, Weekes & Company, Inc.
2. Get Out There Immediately
Getting out there immediately is important; otherwise, consumers think you’re hiding. An acknowledgment statement, “This happened and we’ll get to the bottom of it,” should occur immediately. Once the facts have been assessed, action should be taken. There is no time for denial, avoidance or hoping it will go away. Leaders face their issues head on. –Sandi Leyva, Sandra L Leyva Inc.
3. Avoid Harried Communication
As seen in recent history, escaping bad press can be difficult given the right set of circumstances. Even still, a company can come out on top by developing a platinum communication strategy. One critical component is to avoid harried communication. Being quick does not equal being competent. Messaging must reflect key priorities and cohesive thinking before being disseminated to the public. –Karima Mariama-Arthur, WordSmithRapport
4. Own It
If you make a mistake, the best thing you can do is own up to it, take responsibility for it and apologize. The public only bashes those who refuse to take responsibility and fix things. For the incident when a passenger was dragged off a United flight, United’s PR team didn’t come out and own up to it, they came out and passed the buck. The public hates companies who do that. –Ryan Stewman, Hardcore Closer LLC
5. Acknowledge Bad Press, Then Act Accordingly
First, acknowledge bad press. Next, if at fault, apologize, fix the problem, broadcast the fix, and monitor relentlessly so the problem doesn’t recur. If not at fault, counter with facts openly, honestly, and civilly. Misconceptions must be corrected. If left uncorrected, they can easily be construed as fact. Lastly, invest in positive PR of your own; it will deter bad press. –Gaurav Bhalla, Knowledge Kinetics
6. Be Humble
Be humble. Whether deserved or not, bad press is a chance to reflect on outside perspectives, even when it stings our pride. Consider the motive behind the press. If it aligns with your goals and brand, make changes. If change isn’t appropriate, still, always respond with humility and meekness: Everyone watches your response. No one wants a prideful leader, or to buy from an arrogant company. –Kelly Meerbott, You: Loud & Clear
7. Respond With Transparency When Caught Off-Guard
Sometimes a company is caught off-guard and the media picks up on something that is not known by company officials. In this case, the company should respond immediately and with transparency, even if the response is to let the public know that the issue is being investigated. Then, it’s important to proactively follow up with the accurate information to build credibility and restore trust. –Barbara OMalley, Exec Advance LLC
8. Consider Adopting A Social Responsibility Initiative
Your company’s stance and the character of leadership will be measured by actions once an apology or statement has been issued. Consider adopting a social responsibility initiative or create a working campaign where you do something good to overcome injustice. The key is to regain and build the trust of consumers, employees, and the public again. Invest in a continuum versus a one-time effort. –LaKisha Greenwade, Lucki Fit LLC
9. Tamp Down Bad Press On The Internet
Reputation management is crucial. It’s not easy to “make it go away” online. Clean up biz pages, like Yelp and Facebook, etc. Be honest but positive about negative reviews. Ask site owners to remove bad content. They might! Bury bad results by creating good content that outranks it on search engines. It’s about search: Get the bad press pushed to page two, three or further, and it’s unlikely people will see it. –Victoria Ipri, Learn LinkedIn Fast
10. There’s No Such Thing As Bad PR
There’s no such thing as bad PR, only poor responses. When something happens that reflects badly on your company — and your response has more to do with how you look than fulfilling your promise to your customer, or more to do with saving yourself from legal repercussions than doing what’s right — that’s a poor response. And no one will be impressed. Instead, be true to your promise, be empathetic to your customer and be a mensch! –Debra Russell, Debra Russell Coaching, LLC
This article first appeared on Forbes.