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Negative publicity happens to the best of companies, whether it’s a huge blunder that’s reported in the news, or a complaint online from an unsatisfied customer or disgruntled employee. Word spreads fast in the digital age, so even the smallest of problems can damage your reputation if left unchecked.

Here are some tips for handling negative publicity about your brand

Be proactive

Don’t just wait for the storm to pass after your reputation takes a hit. Businesses should act, and act fast, when it comes to handling negative publicity. How you do this will depend on the severity of your situation. If you have some negative comments or bad reviews on social media, you should respond directly to these people. Apologize to the customer and try to find a way to solve their problem or provide compensation for their bad experience. When handled well, this can turn a dissatisfied customer into a loyal one.

If you experience a more widespread crisis, where your brand is being criticized in national or global media, for example, further actions will be required. You could release a statement or hold a press conference to apologize for the incident and explain what happened, if suitable. Hiding things or shifting the blame at this point could do more harm than good, so humility and transparency are important.

Use listening tools

Make sure you know when your brand is being talked about by employing software that alerts you when your brand name is mentioned online. Google Alerts is one tool you can use to stay on top of online conversations about your brand. You can create an alert for your company name and be notified whenever it is mentioned online. Critical Mention is a similar tool, but it also monitors broadcast media including TV and radio, as well as the Web.

Monitoring mentions of your brand can help you spot potential crises and deal with them before they escalate. These tools are also useful during a crisis, so you can keep track of what people are saying and respond wherever possible. This could help you limit the damage and get a better insight into how to recover from the event.

Replace the bad with the good

If your brand’s crisis is being reported on and talked about a lot online, then web pages containing this content are likely to be what shows up on search engines when people search for your brand name. This could lead to even more people discovering your blunder, so the negativity will continue to spread.

You should try to replace this negative content with content that you own and control. Creating new subpages for your website with quality content that is likely to rank highly in search engine results will push this negative content down, hopefully getting it off the first page of results. You could publish new blog posts, new stories, case studies, or testimonials, for example.

How you respond after a crisis could determine whether you bounce back from it or have your reputation tarnished for good. Respond quickly and effectively to minimize the damage to your brand.