How to Deal with Negative Publicity in 8 Steps

They say there is no such thing as negative publicity, however, most of those that have faced public criticism at least once, probably would not agree with that statement.


It is hard to predict when something will go wrong, and it is even harder to adapt to that situation. There are million ways to find out you’ve been publically criticized or accused by the media, whether you were warned by Google Alert, informed by your employees or maybe you even received a phone call requesting you to comment on the allegations.

Even though it may seem there is no way out of this situation and that nothing can be done, think again. You are not the first or the last to be under the media spotlight. The most important thing is how you deal with the negative story. The way you position yourself and how you react can greatly improve your situation. Here are a few useful tips that will help you react without adding fuel to the fire.

Primarily, respond. Don’t hide. In most cases, lack of a response will only give the critics more power so response is almost always the advice. However, just like with everything else, there is an exception to the rule. If the criticism is unfounded (gossip or an internet thread), don’t give it any additional importance. Furthermore, if you do not have all the information, and you are dealing with a high risk situation, respond with an honest approach and promise to seek out the truth as soon as possible (and really do it).

Don’t overreact. It is very easy to get emotionally tangled up and become defensive, especially when the situation becomes personal. However, if you decide to react hastily by attacking others, offering insinuations, criticism, accusations etc., you will only hurt yourself. This will create more questions than answers, especially for those who were not involved in the situation in the first place. It pays to seek objective advice, from a third part, if possible.

Ask for the equal amount of time. Most respectable media outlets and internet sites will enable you to share your side of the story. Insist on righting all the wrong facts and details. Don’t threaten or terrorize, just call upon the journalist’s (in)correctness and the (un)verification of facts. Nobody likes to be wrong.

Use facts and numbers and quote verified, impartial sources. Convincing answer is the one that contains objective facts and statistical data. Whenever possible, quote independent sources. Previous accomplishments, estimation and recommendations, even satisfied clients, will all help you to prove your side of the story.

Let your lawyers defend you. If your clients or partners are ready to vouch for you and give a statement or write a comment in your defense, let them. The essence of reputation is what others say about you.

Apologize, if necessary. If a mistake has been made, apologize sincerely. Avoid phrases such as “We are sorry if someone felt hurt” etc. Assume responsibility, and, even more importantly, realize how you can fix or reimburse the damages.

Create positive content wherever possible. When things calm down, push out all damaging or unflattering stories with new, positive, fresh and very sought after content. Take the extra step, offer to write a guest blog for a website, let your words be spread through other publications and pages.

Ask yourself, is this an opportunity? Sometimes public criticism can prove to be a positive thing. You can look at it as an awfully wrapped present. You can use this opportunity to fix a problem or improve a product or service you’re offering. If suitable, thank your critics and use this open opportunity for improvement.

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