Turn Negative Company PR Problem into a Positive Branding Opportunity

turn negative pr into positive brandingGood handling of a bad customer experience or product problem can transform a bad public relations situation into a chance to build your business credibility, reputation and brand

The practice of public relations is more than issuing positive press releases touting your accomplishments. Often it involves mitigating situations that can be harmful to the valuable brand identity you have been building for your business.

In the business world everything doesn’t always go just right. Problems happen, big and small. And it happens for big companies and small businesses as well. It’s how you react as a business owner to fixing the problems that can make a major difference in customer reaction and perception of your company. A negative issue can be a major company PR problem, or become an unexpected opportunity to build on your brand promise.



How to Turn Bad PR into Good Branding

Yoga pants maker Lulumon discovered they had a supply problem that caused their yoga pants to be transparent (not a pretty thing when doing the downward dog), they quickly admitted to the problem and took the opportunity to communicate a resolution to the problem well to customers. The unfortunate production error was all over the news, threatening to destroy the well-known brand.

When Lulumon discovered the problem with the pants they could have quietly pulled the product and hoped for the best in resolving the issue. Instead, they chose to do it publicly and use the problem as an opportunity to reinforce their brand image of quality. In the end, the public relations response was a win for the company.

They reinforced with customers their commitment to quality by doing a full recall and replacement of the inappropriately transparent pants. In this case the company’s reaction to the PR crisis was to be very transparent about the issue and the resolution. Apparently transparent in more ways than one!

A negative moment for a company can become an opportunity to build your company’s reputation and credibility. People understand that problems happen. What they don’t understand is companies that attempt to sweep a problem under the rug, avoid addressing it properly or just pretend it didn’t happen at all.
Whether your negative PR situation involves a manufacturing snafu, customer service issue, technical problem or even a late delivery… handling it properly is essential to retain trust with current and future customers.

A public relations response to a potentially bad PR problem should be thoughtfully executed.

  • Admit issues and explain to your customers
  • Provide and communicate a clear path to resolving the problem
  • Give customers an opportunity for feedback, communication channels to answer questions (such as a contact person and/or FAQs)
  • Communicate a plan to avoid the problem from occurring again in the future
  • Put real, tangible changes in place to show your commitment to avoiding future incidents

Learning from Big Business Bad PR

As a small business, there are endless examples of PR snafus with big businesses that you can learn from to help you react to your own situations. Negative PR situations are always in the news for big business – from marketing campaigns that miss the mark, to customer service uproars on social media to major manufacturing problems that cause sales and production to nearly come to a halt.

Pay attention to the company responses and make note of what works and what doesn’t. Learning from big business experiences is always a good practice (although many times it means doing the opposite of what they do). Your small business may never have such large scale problems as these well-known big businesses, but any level of bad PR for a small business could be detrimental to your growth. Embrace bad situations head-on and make it a positive moment that customers will respect and reward you with loyalty for years to come.

Photo courtesy of MartinaKphotography




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With nearly 30 years of integrated marketing experience, Diane is the founder of SBMarketingTools.com and author of the award-winning book PR Tools to Toot Your Own Horn. Diane also runs Marine Marketing Tools, a site that bridges her passion for boating and small business marketing, and two boating lifestyle sites: MyBoatLife.com and BoaterKids.com.