Monday, February 17, 2014

Dealing With A Public Relations Outbreak

By Kyle Reyes

Many small businesses try for years to get media exposure.  Some succeed and are proud to see their company featured in the newspaper or the evening news.  Others fall short - wondering why they can't seem to catch the eyes of journalists.  Others end up making headlines - for all of the wrong reasons.

It's one of the many topics we'll be covering in the seminar The Duck Dynasty Dilemma.

Phil Alexander Robertson.  Professional hunter.  Duck Commander.  Reality television star.  And man of faith.

In late 2013 he became the subject on controversy after an interview with GQ magazine, where he said that homosexual behavior is sinful.

The media exploded.

A&E suspended him.  Then ran a marathon of The Duck Dynasty.  Then, citing strong backlash from his supporters, lifted the suspension after nine days.

Let's be clear.  This isn't a blog debating whether what he said was or was not appropriate.  This is about looking at the big picture...on a simplified level.

An employee made some comments that an employer may or may not have agreed with.  Said employer ended up in the media spotlight.  It's the building blocks for a public relations nightmare.

It's happened a million times - and it'll happen a million more.

George Zimmer - Men's Wearhouse.

Pink slime - McDonalds.

We don't like ugly people - Abercrombie.

The good news, as The Wall Street Journal points out, is that bad PR has a short shelf-life these days.  Corporate PR guru Robert L. Dilenscheider put it best: "Tell it and tell it fast.  If you do that, it goes away in a day.  The attention span of the public is very short."

So how DO you handle bad public relations?

1)  If the bad PR is a bold-faced lie, confront it.  Find the source of the problem and address it.  This is your reputation at stake.

2) Admit that perhaps you screwed up.  Publicly acknowledging mistakes and fixing the problem goes a long way.  People know that you're not perfect - nobody is.  But you'll gain more respect by owning up and proposing a solution than you will if you propose a coverup.

3) Get a little lovin' from your fans.  Solicit your supporters to speak on your behalf.  Sometimes your best advocates are your customers that know the real YOU and can attest to how wonderful your business usually is.  Sometimes positive reviews from your customers will go a long way in balancing customer complaints.

4) If it has hit the media - contact the reporter or editor.  They want to make sure they get both sides of the story.  Reach out to them - without being confrontational.  Give them your side of the story and offer a different angle with fresh information or opposing evidence.

5) Turn to the competition.  One newspaper or TV station blast you...and you haven't had traction in addressing the full story?  Turn to their competition and offer them an exclusive interview.

6) Use it as an opportunity to grow.  Don't be afraid to admit to your staff that the business went through a bad round of PR.  They saw it - there's no point in hiding from it.  Use these mistakes to help bring the team closer together.

The Silent Partner Marketing is a boutique marketing firm focused on helping businesses grow in an age of exploding technology.  Contact us for a complimentary consultation.