A bad or negative press is like a natural disaster that happens to a community or a company going through a crisis period. This is usually attached to the functions of the Public Relations department of a company to manage, meaning it is nothing to toil with when it happens. Therefore, there are steps that must be taken to salvage the situation of a negative press.
The first thing to do is to not take any action i.e. not to respond immediately. At this point, it does not mean that you are going to leave the situation unattended to but, it is a period you need to appraise the situation on ground. If the PR model (RACE) is to be adopted here, it means you are at the;
Research (R): You are to ask series of questions pertaining to the heartbreaking news with no sentiment. Here, you are not allowed to let your emotions dominate your rationality. You are to take a deep breath, then ask yourself the following questions: Is the situation truly damaging? Will the publication impact the sales or business relationships? How deep has it affected the brand or name of your business? Is the publication a popular, widely read or common amidst your target audience? Is the press in question looking for attention? Is the content of the publication factually inaccurate or unduly biased?
When you answer these questions, and you could still not find basis for the negative press fired at you, all you do here is to keep monitoring the situation, following up on the cycle of news; mind you if such press proves wrong, it would surely fade away. Ask yourself, how many of last week’s news can you still remember? However, not to respond does not mean you should let that fade away in your mind that all is well and good.
Give special concentration to your key relationships, ensure you answer all queries, answer all questions coming from customers and if possible, give responses to queries with direct and personal communication whenever you can. Just make sure at this stage, you are not the one digging a deeper hole for yourself to fall in as a brand or company.
Action (A): At this point, you are expected to have answered the above questions, if they turn out to be false against you, you get ready to contact the press (both the publication in question and others handling the same niche with focus on your target audience). You are not expected to tackle the publication or come with a claim of being right here, you are only coming out to state your position, in order words, you are fighting the enemies from where they are not.
This stage, you are expected to create a relationship with the writer or the editor for further communication. Most times, such action is converted into future chance to appear in their publication with detailed interview with you on your company’s activities by giving details on what you stand for.
Communication (C): You are expected to issue a straightforward news release sent over the wires and directly to individual publications that offer the most efficient means of disseminating information. If it is in the case of a Social media attack, you get influencers (third party) to pass down your message to the public as a form of credibility to your brand or company. You can also release a response on your website or blog to show you are capable of handling situations as a business leader. Oftentimes, it is better when responses are written in form of “CEO letter” to the press.
Evaluation (E): You are expected to look around for the effects of your response. Asking questions like: has our response attended to the public’s doubt? Has it suppressed the heaviness of the bad press? Has it led to more confidence and trust from the customers? Etc. This then would lead you into continued management of supposed loophole the press wants to come in through to get at your company and also increase your company’s delivery to back up your claims.
Note: if what is considered negative press turns out to be true, you need proper Public Relations process to bring remedy to such situation.