Does the name ‘Amy’s Baking Company’ ring a bell? If you were anywhere on the internet or picked up a newspaper in 2014, you’ll remember the public backlash against a very poorly handled bout of bad publicity. The restaurant appeared on Gordon Ramsay’s television show ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ that year, and they were portrayed as less than favorable (to say the least). What hurt the company most wasn’t the airing, rather the way the owners turned to social media in a painful attempt to defend themselves. They lashed out at critics, name called anyone who dared comment on their personalities, and declared the Michelin chef a liar. In short, everything they could have done to protect their brand – they did the opposite.
The best way to protect your brand against bad publicity is to generate your own positive publicity before unwelcome news can take hold. Even a small amount of interaction with the public can make a major difference. One of the reasons retail giant H&M remains successful, even though being accused in recent years for stolen designs, is due to their position and stance as an eco-friendly company that features made-in-the-USA pieces. Highlighting a quality product and making sure customers and future customers alike are aware of your brand will help defend against negative press. Make sure to be consistent when highlighting your good points and pay attention to your timing. Donating to a charity is a wonderful thing, but if you donate after every time something negative about your brand comes to light makes it seem like you’re reactive and not proactive.
Every single person in your company has a hand in your brand’s image. Many companies lean back on their marketing, advertising, and social media teams to project their image through publicity, but forgetting about line level employees can deal a crushing blow to your brand’s image. Every employee can go online after a difficult day at work and vent their frustrations about the company or boss, and once it’s on the internet its permanent, and you have no control over how many people see it. Protect your brand from bad publicity by having employees sign a non-disclosure agreement upon hiring. Sure, it won’t stop everyone from venting, but knowing there are consequences to spur of the moment posts can stop or diminish internal leaking.
Unfortunately, there are instances in which you can’t help a bit of bad publicity. A disgruntled customer or competitor seeking revenge on their falling sales can go online and post a review publicly nowadays, and there’s no easy remedy for removing them. The good news is that you are able to prevent most types of bad publicity with a little awareness and planning, which cushions any negativity that might tarnish your image. A good start to set up an emergency plan is to sit down with the major players of your brand and, for lack of a better word, strategize for the inevitable. If a customer posts a negative review, how will you respond to it? If an old employee goes on Glassdoor and slams your vacation packages, would you reach out to them? Having a plan will set you up for a graceful rebuttal to any negativity that might come towards your brand.