When assessing options for dealing with negative press, there are three approaches to consider. While there is no set formula for managing bad press, a company that keeps its focus usually ends up in the best position.
1. Take no action
The impact of bad press almost inevitably seems worse than it really is. It is important to keep a cool head and follow procedures to deal with the situation most effectively.
Take a step back and ask yourself the following questions: Is the situation really as bad as it seems? Will the news impact sales or business relationships? Is the publication well known and widely viewed by your target audience? Is the article factually inaccurate or overly biased?
If your responses to these questions are uncertain, then the best initial response is to hold steady and continue monitoring the situation. Bad press fades over time because news cycles aren’t very long. Think about it: How much of last week’s news can you recall in detail? Not responding to an article, depending on the severity, limits the amount of attention given to it. Responding could validate thereporter’s claims and put a harsher light on the issue.
By not responding, you can concentrate your time and efforts on maintaining your relationships and preparing counterpoints and key facts for addressing employees and answering incoming questions.
2. Contact the reporter or editor
If the story is factually incorrect or overly biased, consider contacting the reporter or the editor involved. All publications will issue corrections for factual errors. When speaking to the reporter, focus on trying to clear up the misunderstanding and build a relationship of trust. Ensuring trust can benefit you in the future because the reporter may then come to you for contributions for future articles.
Don’t use the call the air grievances – it will only cause the reporter or editor to become defensive and make it more difficult for them to accept your point of view. Present the facts as you feel they should have been reported and ask the reporter to issue a correction or reconsider his/her stance. But before taking this approach, be sure to weigh the risks; you could set the stage for an article that further reinforces many of the negative claims that were already made.
3. Issue a response
Bad press can damage your business reputation. If this is the case, it may be necessary to issue a response.
It is important to resist the urge to accuse the reporter or publication of bad reporting or malicious behavior. You don’t want to burn bridges for your future. For any response that you make be sure to stick to the facts and they will speak for themselves.
A straightforward news release sent directly to relevant media outlets is the most efficient means of disseminating information. Publishing a response on a website or blog is another option, but this tactic allows responses from the public that could inflame the issue you don’t want to draw additional attention to, AND lead to a larger negative response.
Any public statement you make should directly address and correct only the issues that were put forth in the original article in a non-emotional, factual style.
The vast majority of media coverage is generally balanced and accurate, especially in the cases of small businesses. If bad press does occur the best way to deal with it is to remain calm and try to put it into perspective. Make sure to think your options over and respond accordingly using the best approach for dealing with your situation. Bad press can give you an opportunity to make your case clearly known as well as show leadership and your ability to deal with pressure.