All brands go through times of crisis. It’s how they handle those situations that determines their future performance and consumer interactions.
For brands that have been around for years, it’s almost impossible to have a track record that doesn’t include any negative publicity. It’s an issue that all brands face—from internal errors to bad customer experiences, there’s a seemingly endless list of things that could go wrong to put brands in a less than ideal situation.
However, times of crisis don’t have to mark the end of the road for successful brands. By following these five steps, brands can overcome negative publicity.
Don’t Fan the Flames
It’s natural for brands to want to respond to every negative claim that’s said about them as soon as a crisis hits. But sometimes, engaging with too many people—especially online—can backfire.
“The last thing that you want to do is take the fight online, especially in today’s tech-driven society. Going back and forth between a small group of upset consumers is only going to fan the flames and make the crisis worse,” said Lonnie Helgerson, president and franchise consultant for Helgerson Franchise Group. “Instead, brands can come up with a targeted strategy or campaign that can then be rolled out on its digital platforms.”
By taking the time to come up with a specific strategy, brands have the opportunity to ensure that they’re only putting the best messages and responses out there when it comes to mistakes or errors that may have been made. That consistency ultimately helps companies move on from being shown in a negative light.
Own Up to Your Mistakes
It’s also essential for brands to admit when they’ve made a mistake. Consumers are more educated about the products and brands that they engage with than ever before, and they value trust. That’s why brands need to be transparent when explaining how they ended up in a bad situation, as well as what they’re going to do to fix it.
“When facing a crisis, one strategy that brands often take is to ignore the problem and hope that in time people will forget about it. They hang on to the idea that a never-ending news cycle will replace their crisis with something else. But that strategy doesn’t work,” said Rick Sittig, the founder and creative director of Secret Weapon Marketing. “There’s a perception left in consumers’ minds that there’s a problem out there that needs to be solved. And until a brand makes a solid effort to come up with a new narrative, the crisis will stay top of mind.”
Stick to the Facts
While it’s important for brands to be honest with consumers about their mistakes in order to overcome negative publicity, it’s also imperative that they only release accurate information about the recovery process. Brands that embellish their rebound plans or understate their errors only end up facing another crisis in the end, ultimately prolonging their period of unflattering headlines and news stories.
Understand Your Audience
In order to overcome a crisis, brands need to know which groups of consumers were directly affected by their error. Negative publicity for brands has become commonplace these days—open-ended customer reviews, feedback and social media posts can be viewed by everyone. But for brands to accurately respond to bad press, they need to know the difference between big picture problems and one negative experience.
“There’s a big difference between someone saying something negative about a brand and a negative review on Yelp. You have to determine the real problems that deserve your attention as a brand, and not just blindly respond to every negative comment that’s thrown out there on the internet,” Helgerson said. “That’s where working with a great PR firm comes in—you need to know when it’s time to act, and when it’s better to sit back.
Give it Time
All brands go through periods of crisis and negative publicity. But if they address the problem head on, open the lines of communication with consumers and remain honest, it’s possible for brands to bounce back from even the messiest of situations. And as time goes on, those errors and mistakes eventually start to fade.
“While it’s important to address any negative publicity, it’s true that time heals all wounds. If you take the right steps when initially handling a crisis, eventually people will start to remember less about the mistakes that were made,” said Helgerson.