How to Respond to Negative Press

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bad pressWondering what to do about negative press? deBanked spoke to some Public Relations professionals about helpful techniques to manage the situation.

“When it comes to a negative story, we advise our clients to bridge back to something they are comfortable talking about,” said Bill McCue, Executive Consultant at Indicate Media.

Bill-McCueBill McCue, Indicate media

McCue said this is known as “bridging.”

“If you’re asked a question about something you don’t want to talk about for whatever reason, you can use transitional phrases like ‘You know that’s an interesting point, but what the real story here is…’ or ‘What we believe is truly the most important thing to talk about is…’ And just keep bridging from a topic you’re not comfortable addressing to a topic you are comfortable addressing.”   

McCue noted that politicians and professional athletes are excellent at this. His favorite example is hockey players, who never talk about themselves. When they get a question about their own performance, they always “bridge” to something like the strength of another player or the coach or the entire team.

McCue also advises all clients, whether they’re overcoming negative press or not, to speak in simple terms, and avoid jargon or acronyms.

“Never assume that the reporter is an expert on your industry,” McCue said. “He or she might be writing about [multiple] topics throughout a given business day. Or they may have been writing about real estate last week and now they’re writing about small business lending…So never assume a certain level of expertise.”

Jason-Geller-HeadshotJason Geller, JMediaHouse

If your industry has gotten negative press, but your company in particular has not been targeted, Jason Geller, Founder of New York-based public relations firm JMediaHouse, said that no response is often the best response.

“Unless you have established clear goals and a message you must put out, or if the allegation is serious, the best response in most cases is nothing. Ignore it,” Geller said. “Don’t give the story life. By opting out you’ve robbed it of the oxygen it needs to continue on.”

Geller also said that if the reporting contained inaccurate information, then the company must first provide the correct information to the reporter or blogger. This, he said, “opens up a great opportunity to leverage the situation and strengthen your relationship with the journalist, and to allow him or her to get to know your company and clients better.”

If a given negative story is so bad that it truly warrants a response, Geller said that it’s critical first to research the writer or blogger before responding.   

“What have they written about in the past? Do they have a history of putting out negative commentary? Have they had a bad experience with your product or brand? Once you have the answers to these questions, you’ll be able put together a much more concise and educated response,” Geller said.

Last modified: January 3, 2019
Todd Stone


Category: Small Business, strategies, Tips


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