They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity. It would be nice if that were true, but those of us who have to be at the forefront of dealing with the fallout from an unsatisfying customer experience know better. There is such a thing as bad publicity, and unfortunately it can sometimes be triggered by the smallest of incidents and end up causing the biggest headaches. We’ve all heard the familiar war cry of an angry client, the vow that they’ll be spreading their story far and wide (and if you haven’t, you will – it’s a rite of passage that comes with running a business), but can often find ourselves ill-prepared when their promise turns into a problem for us. So how do we stop things from snowballing when we are being bad-mouthed by an irate customer?
A recent article from Robert Moskowitz at the Intuit Small Business Blog offers some advice on this topic, providing some insight on how to be prepared for a PR crisis, how to avoid making it worse and how to implement damage control. Robert goes into a good amount of detail with his tips for how we can stop a small PR problem from becoming a major boon to our businesses; here’s a look at one of them:
Act Quickly and Decisively at the First Sign of Trouble
If you put out a fire early, you limit the damage it does. In the same way, if you avoid delays in responding to a PR problem, you reduce the chance it will grow into a crisis. In most cases, there are major advantages (see below) to publicizing your side of the story before someone else’s version becomes solidly entrenched in people’s minds.
Of course, just as you never know where a fire will start, you can’t know in advance what type of PR problem may crop up. But you can be prepared with the following:
- An up-to-date list of key media contacts — in both your community and your industry — who are willing to listen to your side of any story
- A relationship with a trained PR professional who can help you craft appropriate responses to any problem that occurs
- A mindset that favors quick, decisive responses to PR problems rather than silence or cover-ups
This tip is valuable even if we haven’t faced a PR crisis before (or at least in a while), as it helps us understand exactly what we can do to make sure we’re ready for it when it happens. Having a plan will assist with keeping a cool head if it hits the fan fast, and will make it that much less stressful to start dealing with the situation as soon as it’s clear it’s going to be an issue. Even if the problem has the potential to deal a blow to our business, dealing with it head-on, explaining our side of it and avoiding untruths and cover-ups will be better in the long run than pretending we did nothing wrong, deflecting blame or outright ignoring it.
Whether or not you’ve dealt with, or are dealing with, a PR crisis, Robert’s article offers an insightful look into how we can ensure things go as smoothly as possible when they come up.
What do you think? Did you find these tips useful? Do you have your own strategies for dealing with bad PR? Your thoughts are welcome, so let us know!