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What to Do When Your Business Gets Bad Publicity

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Post What to Do When Your Business Gets Bad Publicity   Sat Aug 13, 2011 12:19 pm

Bad publicity. No one wants it, especially when the internet is so tenaciously persistent at preserving everything that's ever been said about you or your business. What do you do when your business gets bad publicity? Do you ignore it? Or should you be proactive?

Don't React Rashly.

The worst thing you can do is put your reaction to bad press into solid form before you have cooled off. You need to vent, just don't record your rantings. Don't respond to a negative comment while you are hot. Wait.

Take Stock.

Consider all the events that led up to the bad publicity. Do your best to see the events from the complainer's side. Try to get into that person's shoes. This may be difficult, yet it is the first step to coming up with a positive response to the bad press. Stepping away from your personal involvement as the business owner or representative will help you take the next step toward making a rational response that takes some of the sting out of the negative feedback.

Let's face it. Sometimes the bad stuff is earned. People make mistakes. As a writer, I've had to learn that some clients aren't a good fit. The parting hasn't been as amicable as I hoped for. While I haven't had someone decide to trash my name yet, I expect the day will come.

Don't Retaliate.

Don't respond in kind. You'll only justify the bad publicity campaign. You need to come off as the rational, reasonable person. You will need to respond, but in the right way.

Don't Beg.

Don't ask the person to retract their negative publicity unless you have documented all the steps you have taken to resolve the issue that started the issue in the first place. Then only ask once on the public forum. If they are truly slandering your reputation or that of your business, then take the battle elsewhere. Let your attorney fight the battle.


If honesty is embraced early, it can douse a lot of inflammatory material. Own up to as much as you should own up to honestly. The ancient proverb, "A soft answer turns away wrath," is still a powerful tool.

For example, the client I mentioned earlier was upset that I used the eBook I wrote for her as an example on my website. I didn't realize that Google was picking it up. I was still trying to build my reputation and wanted to build confidence in my skills. At the same time, I had seriously messed up. I pulled the book, even though it meant that I didn't have the most powerful eBook I had put together as an example of my work.

No matter what the negative experience, you can use the experience as an opportunity to present a positive message about your company. Today's business world isn't a place where you can afford to try and save face by hiding things. You only end up losing more face in the end. Rather respect is built by an openness to growth. Show your customers that you are someone who listens.

One aspect of reframing that can work extremely well is to get to the core issue of the bad press directly. Here's an example. Let's say that this client had gone onto Google maps and started saying how horrible I was and what a horrible writer I was. How could I reframe that?

You can take action in anticipation that such an event might happen.

In this example, the problem originated on a specific page. Then that's where action was needed. You will use the same principle. Go to the place where the problem originated. Was it customer service? Then that's a logical place for reframing an event.

In this case, I replaced the positive excerpt from one of her earlier emails with a section from one of her angry emails. Then I changed the format of the page slightly. After the brief description of each job on the page, I inserted the client's response to my work.

Then I created a very brief extraction from the eBook, which I invited in my concluding comments on her project with an invitation to see if prospective clients agreed with her assessment.

This kind of strategy distances you from the blame game. It lets future customers decide for themselves which side they want to take. You don't come off as the "bad guy." You haven't slung mud. You come out looking decent.

Will your first reaction be aggressive and defensive? Probably. That;s why you need to take stock, choose to never retaliate and choose not to grovel. Rather look for the best way to reframe the negative. In the end, it could be a positive thing. It could just keep the kind of customer you don't want away.

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