Whether you are just starting out or you've been in business for some time, dealing with bad press can be an emotional roller coaster. With so much emphasis on your business getting the word out about your products and services and building on positive feedback from your strategic business partners and clients, it can be quite a surprise to find yourself instead at the receiving end of bad press.
There are times when strategic business partners or clients may not only be disagreeable about how you do business, but be downright mean and malicious about it. Spreading rumors or bad-mouthing your company can quickly get out of control if the source has connections. It may feel natural to want to come out swinging against the naysayer – but that reaction too is bad for business. You'll only be compounding the problem. Instead you need to get your facts straight and present your retort after much consideration and level-headed thought.
Here are some tips to help keep your cool and combat bad press:
- Find out exactly what is being passed around. Check out blogs, internet news, forums, and even the human grapevine. Have an understanding of what people are saying before making any decisions. Resist the temptation to start typing back in defense of yourself and your company when doing research. You will end up doing more harm than good and feeling worse about the situation in the long run.
- Take a time out. Depending on the level of bad press or bad mouthing your company is getting, you need to back off and take a few days to think about the situation clearly. Likely you and your staff will be riled up and ready to fight. In order to really handle the bad press, you need to be cool, calm, and collected. Take your time and prepare yourself to handle the situation with grace.
- Sit down without distraction and consider your possible responses to bad press. If the rumors are confined to a particular website or blog, think about your rebuttal in the same format. If the bad press is in the news and other mediums, consider a bigger plan. Write out five messages you can send out to the press and internet resources. Include information you want known in a concise manner. Remain positive and resist bad-mouthing any individual or company. You may also want to speak to key people in your industry and ask them to help you put your message out there. If warranted, by speaking out, you will be able to prove credibility in that you have nothing to hide.
- Carefully review all aspects of the situation to determine if a formal response is the correct action. Sometimes; based upon factors such as the source of the bad press and the source's perception among your colleagues in the industry, a response by your company may be the wrong approach. By responding in some instances, you may be unwittingly fueling a situation that will naturally dissipate on its own. The last thing you want to do is lower your company's perception with others by dignifying bad press with a response, especially if it is obvious to the recipients that it has been circulated maliciously.
There will be times when your bad press comes in the form of customer feedback. It can be easy to dismiss a handful of negative comments, but it would be more effective if you considered all the feedback you receive and what you can do to improve the situation. You may be biased or self-centered enough to think all your business is perfect. That thinking won't increase your business or help reverse negative images people may have of your company. You have got to listen actively to provide the best for your clients.
If you are just starting out in business, this may not be quite as important a lesson as others for you to learn now. But there may be times in the future when your business might take some negative hits in publicity. In order to be prepared to deal with this possibility, make sure you have a firm understanding of your company mission and values when just starting out – and stick to them. It can be very easy for an unfocused company to deteriorate in light of negativity.
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