You put plenty of effort into developing your new business, and just when you get it up and running, suddenly you’re hit with some bad news. It might be a negative news story related to your product, a spate of bad reviews on websites or professionals making negative comments on your industry in general, but you may feel shock and discouragement when bad publicity strikes. First of all, keep in mind that bad publicity is not the end of the world, and you could transform it into an opportunity or at least minimize the damage.
Bad News Happens
It might be helpful to keep in mind that almost all businesses have to deal with negativity now and again. Even if you’re running a corner bike shop, it is almost impossible that all of your customers will be satisfied every single day. If you are running something larger and more complex than a bike shop, even if you offer an excellent product, it is highly unlikely that you will never have a complaint. Some may see bad news as a sign that they could be fighting a losing battle, but others may see negative publicity and indication that the business is growing, and a larger number of customers may mean more complaints.
Reputation Management and How It Can Help You
Reputation management is the name of the game to cleaning up a public relations mess or getting your name out there even before the trouble begins. A number of companies hire reputation management consultants if they are hit with the high-profile lawsuits, if their products have been recalled, or if there is some kind of scandal. A reputation management team is armed with content for positioning positive stories higher in the Google rankings and generating news stories that will spruce up a company’s image. You don’t need to hire advisors if the problem is relatively minor, but keep in mind that these resources are out there if you need them.
An Ounce of Prevention
One way to prepare yourself for inevitable negativity is to get the positive story about your brand out there in as many channels as possible to serve as an inoculation against bad PR. If people know who you are and trust your products, they are more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt if there is bad news than if your product is unknown. Providing optimal customer service and positive attitude around your brand can insulate the blows when they occur. One way to do this is to provide a personal touch to your branding and make people feel that your product is designed for their health, well-being and for the benefit of society.
Transforming Bad Publicity
A textbook case in how a small company managed to transform bad publicity is the controversy betweenHampton Creek and Unilever. Hampton Creek is a relatively small company that specializes in creating plant-based foods designed for a healthy lifestyle. They developed a product called Just Mayo, which is a mayonnaise alternative that contains no eggs. Unilever, which owns the Hellmann’s mayonnaise brand, filed a lawsuit against Hampton Creek over the company’s use of the word “mayo.” They argued that since the mayonnaise alternative put out by Hampton Creek contains no eggs, they could not call it mayo.
Rather than hurting Hampton Creek, the case brought attention to the company and its products, with the result that Just Mayo began appearing on the shelves of supermarkets and big box retailers rather than just health food stores. The fact that a traditional food company was creating obstacles for a relatively new company that was committed to healthy eating won over the public. The healthy eating trend helped Hampton Creek, earned it many fans and customers, and eventually, the case was dropped.
Sometimes it is a good idea to respond to negative PR by going all out with press releases, news stories and social media posts to redeem the reputation of your company. At other times, however, this approach might be drawing attention to the bad news and can make your business appear to be on the defensive. How you should handle bad publicity depends on the circumstances, but the main thing to keep in mind is not to despair. Almost all companies suffer from negative reviews at some point, and dealing with these matters is an inevitable part of doing business. Wait it out or fight it, but always remember to keep developing your brand and reaching out to the public.
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