How to Handle Bad - when it all goes wrong!

media relations Mar 11, 2021

If you've been following Level-Up Your Marketing with Vicki and Laura, that you'll know that we don't spend much time on doom and gloom. So why are we talking about what could go wrong? Well, we believe in being prepared. You need to have a strategy so that you know what you'll do when you need it. It's like having a fire escape in your building. You don't build it after the smoke alarm is already sounding.

In business, we've always got to be moving forward and keep going on our path. However, it is inevitable that occasionally things will happen that are out of our control. Like social media trolls, for instance. We don’t like them but we can’t avoid them — some people are just hard wired for negativity and enjoy stirring the pot. Our advice? Ignore them, delete them, block them and move on. If something needs to be publicly corrected because it was factually wrong, then by all means respond to that, but keep all emotion out of it. If they are trying to stir the pot, just put the lid on it and turn off the fire. 

But what about a bad customer service review? What is the best way to handle that? 

Talk to the customer directly first, get all the facts and try to remedy the situation. If the customer is satisfied with your response to their gripe then often they will update the review to share that they’re now satisfied and how well you handled the situation. You can publicly respond in a polite way to show that you’re ‘on it’ and you’re doing your part to fix it. This is the time to show you are being proactive. Often we care so much about our business we want to immediately defend it, but the best reaction is not a knee-jerk; first take a breath, take a step back, look at the situation calmly and get the perspective of someone who's not right in the middle of it. 

Often this kind of negative publicity happens quite quickly and we can find ourselves scrambling to react. The best way to prevent missteps in this situation is to have a plan in place well before anything ever happens. Know exactly who in your business will respond when there’s something needing a response, and if you have a PR firm you are working with be sure to engage them early on, before any crisis, so they know your business and have a plan before they start your Operation Clean Up!. 

Whatever you do, don’t dwell on it. Move on, learn from it and improve your process for the future so that these things don't happen again. No entrepreneur goes through this journey without mistakes or failures or an occassional crisis. No matter if you do almost everything right, something is naturally going to go wrong. Just don't beat yourself up about it. Let it go and move on.


Here are some tips on responding to negative press:

  • Correct any false information. If incorrect information is being circulated, it is important to correct it.
  • Use facts to improve credibility.
  • Avoid appearing defensive. Respond in a kind manner. Show that you’re in quiet control. 
  • Share other positives about the company - authentic, relevant positive information
  • Take advantage of social media


What not to do during a PR crisis:

  • Lash out. You need to be strategic not emotional.
  • Offer "no comment". This sounds like you are trying to cover something up. If you don’t have enough information to give a full response, say so.
  • Respond too quickly or too slowly. Timing is important. Don’t delay but get the facts before responding.
  • Dwell on the situation. The good news is, that news cycles are short. People forgive and forget the mistake but they remember how you responded (or if you didn’t respond).


If you want to hear more on this topic, head over to our podcast “How to Handle Bad - when it all goes wrong!” Listen in on your favourite podcast player (links below) or ask Alexa or Siri to play Level-Up Your Marketing with Vicki & Laura. 


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