Turn on the TV to any news channel – negativity is regularly broadcasted from around the world. Seldom does positivity ever stream through any of our entertainment systems.It’s no different for the business world – your good deeds are rarely highlighted; however, your negative ones will surely be mentioned. The internet and social media were originally designed to enhance our social life and provide easier access to global news. It also allowed for misinformation and the rapid spread of bad news – making organisations more vulnerable to negative press than ever before.
The power of internet reviews has placed a tight grip on how companies are required to tip-toe through their business endeavours. Make the wrong mistake, and bad publicity and reviews will follow your organisation online forever.
Types of Bad Publicity
Bad publicity isn’t always directly related to the business and their practices – it can also come from individuals who are employed by the organisation. Reviewing potential employees’ social media accounts and running a thorough internet search before hiring is extremely valuable. Any associated scandals, whether occurring before, after, or during employment, can all impact the organisation unfairly. The list of bad press that can affect a company is endless – but just to name a few:
• Sexual Harassment • Affairs • Outsourcing • Mistreatment of Employees • Racism • Ageism • Misuse of Funds • Sexism • Working conditions • Unfair dismissals
Bad publicity often comes through trending topics:
Think back to when Australia voted for Gay Marriage. A franchisee owner of a Gloria Jeans had made previous comments in favour of voting against gay marriage. This was then used by many to boycott the entire Gloria Jeans franchise – the actions of 1 franchisee affecting 100’s of other locations.
Ways on How to Recover from Bad Publicity
Changing your Policies
Policies are both the cause of and answer to our problems. If negative press has damaged your company, chances are there is a policy in place that could have been changed or implemented to avoid the situation entirely. Starbucks was under scrutiny recently after two people from a particular racial group were denied access to a store restroom – bringing about a call to boycott the organisation and a public outcry from multiple celebrities. The original Starbucks policy outlined that only customers may use the restroom – without a clear definition as to what a customer represents. As the two individuals had not yet made a purchase, this created an avenue for the bias to occur.
Starbucks was then required to remove the notion that a customer is someone who has purchased a product. Starbucks changed their policy to now include that a customer is anyone who merely enters the building. This change in policy will most likely prevent similar issues from arising in the future.
Make a Public Change
The power of social media and publicity can go both ways. Using the Starbucks example, they utilised social media to spread the word about the closure of Starbucks locations for racial bias prevention training across the United States.
Theoretically, Starbucks could have trained their employees on this topic during part of their staff’s work day, providing a much cheaper alternative than closing 8,000 locations for an entire day. Keep in mind their operating hours range from 5am-midnight. By completely closing and broadcasting the news – this not only notified customers that they could not purchase their daily coffee, but it showed that they were being proactive in response to the negativity they had received.
Own the Truth
One of the largest banking corporations in America, Wells Fargo was indicted for falsely opening banking accounts for fake customers to meet monthly sales quotas.
Wells Fargo did not shy away from the truth. They made a succession of advertising campaigns admitting to their faults as a company and how they had lost their way. These campaigns showcased how far Wells Fargo had come, where they are now, and where they intend on going - placing the customer first and to never misuse people’s information.
Go on Social and SHOW who you are
Sometimes the best defence is a great offence. If your company has been negatively attacked, whether through misinformation or fact – use social media to highlight the pros of your organisation. Showcase who you really are, how you treat your staff and what your values may be. Give your customers an insight into the finer details of your organisation, make yourself approachable and human and you will be better received amongst the public.
Examples include: • Show photos of the office and the staff • Showcase community and volunteer events • Display your workplace social outings and fun within the office
Respond to the Criticism and Quickly
This is a direct reference to bad reviews left on platforms such as Google, Yelp and Facebook. Reply quickly, positively and empathetically.
Don’t poke the bear – if you have responded as mentioned above and the reviewer still wishes to engage in negativity – attempt to close the conversation off. If that still doesn’t work – ignore it. Some people are just searching for an argument.
Nothing positive comes from simply ignoring a negative review. Use the review as an opportunity to apologise and rectify the situation. Offer sympathies and seek to solve the issue. Gift cards and refunds are a great place to start.
Reputation management is crucial. Feedback that has been left online is there forever. Clean up your business pages, like Yelp and Facebook, etc. (Forbes) Ask review pages and authors to remove negative feedback and comments. More often than not, simply asking about the reasoning behind a review can help get to the bottom of the issue, bring about a solution, and possibly get that negative feedback removed.
Bad PR is a part of every business, but, as the old saying goes ‘there is no such thing as bad press’ - only misplaced management on how to handle it. The internet can be a weapon used against you, but it can also be your defence. Get out on your front foot and showcase who you are. Own your mistakes and utilise the world wide web to your advantage.