Crisis PR: Bad press – what to do?
Those affected by negative coverage should always first ask themselves: will the news have negative effects on our own business turnover or on our existing business relationships? How wide is the range of the publication? Will it be read by customers? Is the article factually incorrect or excessively prejudiced? If these questions cannot be answered clearly, the current news situation should be monitored first. News cycles are usually short-lived and a bad press will quickly fade. Over-hasty reactions can unintentionally prolong the life cycle of an article. Communication experts recommend three scenarios for reacting to a negative press. Those primarily dealing with the situation should be the professional PR agency or press office. Good crisis communication must be uniform and requires good availability. The following scenarios can be run through by the PR professionals:
Show no perceptible reaction
Not reacting does not mean doing nothing at all, however. If you are affected by a bad press, you should first concentrate on your most important business relationships. Enquiries by customers or suppliers resulting from the negative coverage must be answered quickly and clearly. The first step for the press office after becoming aware of negative headlines is therefore to work out written counter-arguments and convey these to employees, customers and other business partners preferably in personal talks.
Make contact with the editioral team
If an article contains factually incorrect information, most newspapers or broadcasters will be quickly prepared to correct the content. If however the problem lies in a one-sided perception of certain facts, a correction of the coverage will be unlikely. In such a case there is no legal right to reply. Nevertheless, the press office should describe to the journalist the viewpoint of those affected and awaken understanding for them. The focus of the contact should be on clearing up misunderstandings and building up a relationship of trust.
Issue a public statement
If the coverage lastingly harms the reputation of the company, those affected should give a public response. Issuing a press release is the most efficient means of defusing negative coverage with good arguments. If public statements are made in reaction to negative headlines, the tone must at all costs be matter-of-fact and balanced. In order to be convincing, the facts published should speak for themselves.