Making the most of publicity, particularly during challenging times
When an unknown source has been bad-mouthing you or spreading rumours about your company on the internet, and it has been picked up and shared, you could be wondering what to do about it.
How should you respond to negative news online?
When faced with negative news or rumours online, you can either engage with it, take charge of the situation or ignore the event. Which approach is best, will largely depend on each and every circumstances.
Of course, a knee jerk emotional response is natural if it is personal but there are always consequences, if it is not thought through comprehensively and it may have a harmful effect.
If you are the CEO of a large Plc company, you may think that your reputation is too good for any negative rumour spreading; that your shareholders and customers will not believe the untruths. You may believe that if it is ignored, it will just go away.
Perhaps you might not even consider that bad rumours on the internet may result in you having to do some serious work of wooing back shareholders, dubious customers and a series of broadcast interviews down the line. Hard to believe but it has happened with many large companies. Anything negative on the internet has the ability to turn into something big and ugly because everyone seems to have an opinion these days and knows what channels to engage.
In reality, it is becoming even more common, for CEOs and Business owners to suffer great reputation damage and emotional stress-even from rogue posts on the internet. Often it can be due to just one unfounded negative post that is amplified by gaining traction with mindless sharing and deliberate intention to damage executive and company profiles. Unfortunately, some CEOs presumed that it would all blow over but it creates mistrust and they often linger and are difficult to get down.
After all, the public does not know the story behind the rumours but it won't stop people sharing, so responding thoughtfully and quickly, is often strongly advisable.
Subconsciously even, people will go with a brand that they have only ever heard good things about. Those negative comments will go deep with many, despite you being a trusted brand. Disgruntled people are everywhere and many take to the net to air their grievances and often, with exaggeration and without evidence.
Add to the equation, envious competitors who want to take over, can also spread damaging rumours and the issue is, ill-informed people tend to share them. It could be catastrophic to your company and to you emotionally.
How to turn negative news into good PR
Responding the right way and without delay is advisable.
Think about the rumour or negative post. Is any of it true? Is it an opportunity to improve services? Do you need to take responsibility and apologise? Really think about the consequences of what you will say and how it will be received. Certainly think about how you are going to say it. Will it be with conviction? It will do you more damage than good if it isn't because people can see through half-hearted sentiments.
Is it a complaint about a product? Would an apology directly and an offer for them to return the goods for new be suffice? Solving problems and trying to understand goes a long way. Or is it bigger than that?
Do you need to respond before you are finally summoned to attend a Select Committee interview to explain what is going on in your company in front of the world's media?
Do you need to recall a product? If there are rumours attached to it, then an investigation needs to ensue, for certain. Not doing so could suggest that you don't care and this won't please your consumers, either. If it is a public safety issue, then you have no choice but to recall items. How to turn negative news into good PR in this situation would be to show corporate conscience and that you take responsibility and that you're forthcoming and honest.
How to turn negative news into good PR with a PR campaign
A timely, creative PR rescue campaign can be a great turnaround for negative news and shine an honest, positive light on you and your company, creating goodwill. The way a company reacts to bad publicity and press is effective on how the public will feel about your company, whether the rumours are true or not.
Responding the right way could do more favours for you than you realise
What always works with companies and public trust is transparency. If your public are clear about how you operate, the less likely they will believe negative publicity. If they hear it, they will wait to hear more from you. Just remember that not responding to the online rumours will leave your public wondering, regardless, about the truth and it will not do you any favours.
Getting good, transparent advice to clarify what you are doing correctly and an experienced PR and Media relations expert will do their utmost, in haste, in showing you how to turn negative news into good PR. They will also put you in touch with their lawyers who can help with any legal action, if necessary, as well as provide media training.
A media crisis communications plan in place is wise advice, since companies face backlashes more often than not, these days.
If you keep up the communication with your public and they are aware of the lengths that you are going to to remedy the situation and taking responsibility, you will more likely retain public favour. See it as an opportunity to show your company's value publicly, in a positive way.