How to deal with a PR nightmare

Every so often something comes along that you aren’t expecting, be it a bad review, a product failure or even a key figurehead having a public outburst. If not addressed publicly, they can do irreparable damage to your company, clients and reputation within the industry. There are many different ways to address a public scandal, some have been successful in the past others not so much.

Address the issue head on

One of the best ways to address an issue is sometimes to just grab the bull by the horns and acknowledge it directly. Holding a press conference allows the public and press to have their questions answered and can provide a public image of openness and acceptance of your own mistakes. Addressing the issue head on can also bring a stop to any media speculation and provide you with a clear end date for talking about the issue. Sometimes however this can open up a can of worms, allowing the press to ask questions which may uncover other issues from the staff within the company.

Ignore it

Sometimes all a company needs to do is let the whole thing blow over. Ignoring an issue can sometimes be the right thing to do. According to recent studies the attention span of the public these days is only eight seconds, less than your average goldfish. It’s sometimes better for a company to wait for a bigger scandal to occur (which these days could be as long as a few hours) than address an issue upfront and uncover yourself for criticism. Ignoring an issue however does have some rather obvious drawbacks, it provides no answers, no explanation and is fairly obvious as a tactic when it’s used. The backlash on a company can be apocalyptic and can lead to a complete boycott due to a lack of public confidence in your company.

Charitable donations

Quite often seen as the easy way out, companies can issue a minor press release with an apology and give some money to a charity related to the issue at hand. This is often the quickest and easiest way to get the public back onside. It doesn’t solve the problem though. Giving a charitable donation may look good on paper but it can rarely be used twice. The public has seen through a lot of charitable donations as just a cover-up for a company’s misdeeds.

Distract the public

As previously mentioned the attention span of the public is criminally low, so one way to get around a scandal is to distract the public with something positive. Hold a competition, a sale or giveaway freebies, if done correctly it will keep the press and the public’s attention on the positives meanwhile the scandal fades into the background to become a nonissue. This can be less effective than other methods as it is essentially saying, “look over here! Shiny thing! Shiny! Shiny!” Meanwhile you are quickly fixing the issues at hand. Dedicated journalists can quickly see through such methods and it can occasionally be more damaging in the long run.

Stop it happening again

The best way to address a public scandal is to make sure it doesn’t happen. Similar to addressing the issue head on, it requires you to accept a mistake has been made, but you take measures to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Be it firing the person responsible, setting up training programs for employees or just taking away a CEO’s social media privileges. This will ensure that it doesn’t happen again and means less work in the future to regain public confidence and respect.

These are just a few ways your business could get out of trouble. Every business comes with its own unique problems and issues, so the way you handle those problems should also be unique. If you would like a free PR health check to make sure you’re ready for a scandal please get in touch.


Phone: 01926 832395

Related News Stories

PRmoment award logo
Red Marlin in the running for PR industry award
Does your business need an automotive PR MoT?
Five top tips to improve readability