It’s often said that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. They may be saying terrible things about you, but at least your name is on everyone’s mind. The truth is that bad publicity can ruin your reputation if you don’t get it under control.
For instance, in 2016, sales of Ferrero’s popular spread Nutella dropped off after accusations that the palm oil used in their ingredients might be carcinogenic. To counter this, Ferrero launched a campaign focused on explaining how Nutella was a safe product. As a result, Nutella sales began to recover by the end of the year.
This demonstrates how even bad press on big products are turned around if it’s confronted, rather than ignored. The same kind of recovery comes when companies address other kinds of negative publicity quickly and thoroughly.
In the following article, you’ll find some common publicity issues businesses deal with, and ways of handling them that can not only minimize bad publicity but make it work to your advantage.
Negative or False Reviews
When you provide a quality product or service, an anonymous stranger who is critical of your business in public forums or on social media is frustrating. Usually, the review is an honest result of a bad customer experience, but sometimes it is a false review by someone looking to vent about something beyond your control — a disgruntled employee, a customer caught doing something unethical, like returning used goods and expecting a refund, a competitor seeking to tank your brand image. Regardless, you can benefit from bad feedback using some simple techniques.
First, you need to know how to handle the situation. Negative comments don’t make anyone happy, but the worst thing you can do is to just ignore them or delete them. You also shouldn’t respond immediately out of anger. Wait until you’ve regained your calm and then respond professionally and responsibly.
Make it a point to empathize with your customers and express concern. Even if the customer is being unreasonable, apologize and make the attempt to set things right. If there was an error, admit it and promise to correct it.
This kind of response shows your audience that you appreciate your customers and want to ensure that they’re happy. No matter how harsh the criticism, a responsible and positive reaction will show everyone else that your brand is trustworthy. As a result, you will lower the risk of losing customers and increase your chances of acquiring new ones.
Mistakes do happen. Even professionals in advertising, PR, and social media can make gaffes that shock customers. This might be publishing embarrassing personal posts on a business account, using awkward hashtags, or posting inappropriate images.
This also happened to some big organizations, including the Red Cross, US Airlines, and American Apparel, who in 2014 posted a photo of the Challenger space shuttle explosion as “fireworks”. Generally, the best response is to own up to it, apologize, and deflate the tension with a little humor if possible.
It also helps to remind customers that they are dealing with ordinary human beings. It could even make your brand more relatable. Relatively minor issues in production, vendors, or fulfillment can create issues that prove embarrassing if they aren’t caught in time.
For example, Lulumon, a highly successful maker of yoga pants, sold pants that were see-through in 2013 – the humiliating result of a supply issue. Lulumon publicly acknowledged the mistake. A quick recall and replacement of the bad product helped to reinforce their reputation as a responsible and fair company.
Network breaches and a loss of customer data is a serious concern for every organization today and create really bad publicity. Big names like Target, Sony, and PayPal have all made headlines as victims when customers relied on them for the protection of their personal information only to have that trust violated when hackers breached security. The notoriety that comes with a data breach can lead to a loss of public trust and millions of dollars in revenue.
If your customers’ personal data gets stolen, they could become victims of identity theft. It is extremely important that you know how to prevent that from happening. To safeguard against hackers, you need to updated data and security systems regularly. You need the latest anti-malware applications and hardware options. Safeguards like firewalls, data encryption, spam filtering, threat detection, and more provide added layers of protection without serious loss of network performance.
When a disaster happens and data breaches occur, it’s important to react immediately and call in a digital security expert to assess and correct the problem. The worst response is trying to conceal the breach. Notify customers right away, let them know if their information may be at risk, and what steps they can take to further protect themselves. Offering to pay for monitoring to detect unauthorized use of personal information goes a long way to healing the breach. Customers also appreciate an email explaining what happened and what steps you’ll take to prevent further breaches, along with a brief note of apology, was well as follow-ups to let them know how things are progressing..
Creative advertising is important, but some ideas just don’t click with consumers. In today’s increasingly diverse marketplace, it’s even easier to find some group took something you said the wrong way. For instance, Starbucks got a lot of pushback after announcing it would hire immigrants in support of protests against Trumps immigration ban. Some took that to mean they were hiring immigrants over other disadvantaged groups, like veterans.
If you find you’re getting negative feedback because people find a new campaign annoying or take what you said the wrong way, try using humor.
Go Compare’s marketing campaign is a perfect example of bad publicity from advertising. The UK company used an opera singer in a series of commercials and received negative feedback from their audience. The company reacted by releasing several billboards which mocked the singer and eventually released a commercial in which they killed him off. Even bad decisions can provide a means to connect with audiences.
Repetition can ruin even a good ad; if the audience sees it too many times they become bored and irritated. Ads that are too vague are associated with your company later on. But dramatic change can also be bad. Many people remember the 1985 “New Coke” fiasco that had customers outraged when Coca-Cola suddenly replaced their classic best seller. The soft drink giant had no choice but to reintroduce the original recipe.
Final Thoughts on Bad Publicity
To sum up, it’s always wise to address bad publicity rather than ignore it. Empathizing and communicating with customers can counter bad reviews by showing customers you’re ready to take responsibility and make amends. You can spin errors in marketing, product choices, and even disasters like a security breach in a positive way by putting the customer first. This shows that your brand is a responsible company, even if you do make mistakes.
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Guest Author: Lisa Michaels
Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a striving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in the business world. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels.