It’s almost unavoidable. Bad things happen to good businesses every day.
Your company becomes a target for takeover. A substantial drop in orders means you’ll be laying off serious numbers of employees. An employee you terminated recently calls the local newspaper and claims wrongful discharge.
Under the best of conditions, these “crisis” scenarios present headaches for business owners. The pain can be crippling, however, when the media gets the “scoop.”
Too often, that’s when business leaders stage a retreat, perhaps hoping if no information is forthcoming, the publicity will dry up from lack of interest.
Wrong! Like it or not, bad news makes good headlines.
Worse, nothing is likely to irritate the media more than not getting responses to their questions. In crisis situations, one thing is certain: reporters will find the information they seek and print or broadcast it — whether or not they get it from you.
But wait — there’s hope.
7 Dead-Simple Rules to Deal with Negative Publicity
Entrepreneurs here are 7 ways you can take to diffuse the negative publicity bomb. These are the strategies that can help you mitigate the effects of even the most serious of problems.
1. Develop a Crisis Plan
Most problems can be predicted at least somewhat in advance (mergers, for example, rarely happen overnight). Make a list of the worst things that could happen to your business.
Then, decide who from your company will do what and when in each circumstance.
2. Appoint a “Designated Mouth.”
All calls from the media should be directed to this individual, who can field questions directly or refer them to a more appropriate person.
Keep in mind, however, that a crisis is not the time for the head honcho or honcha to pull a disappearing act.
In most instances, the media — and the public — want to hear from the top dog, not the folks in the public relations department.
3. Come Up With Answers
Given the situation, what would you ask yourself if you were a reporter covering the story? Make a list of these questions and how you will answer them.
4. Put Yourself First
Particularly when the news is bad, your employees deserve to hear it before the rest of the world. Explain what the problem is, how it is being resolved and how media inquiries will be handled and by whom.
Most importantly, give specific instructions on how employees should answer questions from customers.
5. Take the Initiative
The minute disaster strikes, issue a news release outlining the situation, the consequences and how you’re handling it.
Being proactive gives you the opportunity to make sure the first flurry of news coverage is as accurate and fair as possible. Provide facts and details and — above all — stick to the truth.
6. Avoid “No comment.”
When a company spokesperson uses these words, it’s commonly perceived by the public as guilt, according to a survey by National Family Opinion, Greenwich, Conn.
Almost always, there is something you can say — even if you don’t yet have the answer. Tell the media you’ll provide the information as soon as you get it — then do it!
7. Keep Talking
After the initial word is out, continue to disseminate information– through printed news releases or personal calls to reporters — on how the situation is progressing.
Wanted to tell how you handle with negative publicity, do in the comments!