As the classic saying goes, there is no such thing as bad publicity. But while there is something to be said about having people discussing your company, even if it’s not in a positive light, it is still a stressful experience to deal with negative stories, especially when they are not true. With that in mind, let’s look at a few examples of negative publicity, and how company owners should address each situation:
What do Amway and Nutella have in common? Being the victim of false rumors and, in both cases, swiftly addressing the untruths and correcting them. In the case of Amway, there has been a prevalent myth surrounding the company that they are basically a pyramid scheme. This type of misinformation may prevent people from purchasing cleaning products, beauty products and supplements from the company, as well as signing up to work for them. To quash this myth, Amway got busy posting the truth about their company on their website. In the case of Nutella, in 2016 rumors began to fly that the tasty chocolate-hazelnut spread contained carcinogenic palm oil. Ferrero, the company that makes Nutella, launched a campaign that explained how safe Nutella is; as a result, their sales began to flourish again.
In some cases, companies do make actual errors, ranging from minor to more cringe worthy. Lulumon, a successful yoga pants company, sold pants in 2013 that were quickly discovered to be see-through — not exactly what you want to see or wear when in a crowded yoga studio. Another error happened in 2014, when American Apparel posted a photo of the Challenger space shuttle explosion and labeled it as “fireworks.” In cases like these, the best approach is to acknowledge that an error in judgment or materials was made, apologize sincerely and then do what you can to make things better. In the case of Lulumon, they reacted quickly to recall the see-through pants and replaced them with new pairs. For American Apparel, removing the photo immediately along with a heartfelt apology was a good approach.
Thanks to the power of social media and online review sites like Yelp, any customer can potentially complain about your company online. When you pride yourself on providing outstanding products and services, some cranky pants who is falsely accusing you of doing something wrong can be frustrating. While it might be tempting to fire back a scathing reply to the Negative Nellie, it is best to wait until you have calmed down. Then, respond to the negative review in a professional manner; for example, apologize for the person’s bad experience, point out that this is rare in your business, and offer him or her the chance to come back so you can make things right. Other people who read the review and your reply will see that you truly appreciate your customers and want to make sure that they are happy.
Making Lemonade Out of Lemons
If handled correctly, negative publicity can almost always be turned into something positive for a company. So while it is still jarring to realize your business is being talked about in a bad light, it is definitely possible to turn the situation around and use the opportunity to show your company in an outstanding way.