Every business is vulnerable to crises and bad publicity—it could be something as minor as a negative review online or as major as an accident in the field that threatens your reputation. Even things out of your control, such as new policies and procedures sanctioned by the government, could harm your business.
If or when your business finds itself with a bit of a bad rap, it's critical to be proactive and take action as soon as possible. Keeping your heads down until it passes won't help maintain or rebuild your image. Larger businesses typically have public relations teams to call upon when a crisis hits, but smaller businesses need to be savvy.
Understand the crisis.
Analyze the situation by gathering all the facts to understand exactly what the crisis is and its potential impact, both short- and long-term. Without this information, it's impossible to determine the best solution.
Decide the core message you want to convey.
It might be an apology, clarification or response. Avoid arguing and appearing defensive, and do not lie or manipulate the facts. No matter the situation, you have to say something. Keeping quiet implies you don't care or have something to hide.
Face up to the challenge.
Acknowledge the failure, apologize and state you're working to put things right. Again, some things are out of your company's control, but let your clients and business partners know what measures you're taking to rectify the situation.
Be prepared for when the press call.
In the event of a news disaster, prepare and practice the message you'll give journalists, if and when they call. Consider the press as an opportunity to share the message you want to send; it's important to share sufficient information.
Improve organic search and search engine optimization (SEO).
Even when a crisis passes, your business isn't out of the spotlight. When prospective clients search your business' name, the information will be front and center in the results.
One of the most efficient ways to remedy negative hits is by creating engaging content, which could include ads, blog posts, videos and more. The new content will push old news down in the search results. If you have a few negative reviews or comments online, for instance, you could ask loyal customers for feedback.
Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today.
"5 SEO Best Practices for Crisis and Reputation Management," Sophie Maerowitz, PR News.
"Crisis Management for Entrepreneurs: How to Deal with PR Disasters," Kate Betts, The Guardian.