What Crisis? How to Turn Bad PR into Good PR

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We’ve all heard the wise old adage from the ever quotable Oscar Wilde: “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”, but it is really true that any PR is good PR?

If you have found yourself in the midst of a PR crisis, there are steps you can take to minimise the damage and even turn the situation into a positive one for your company.

Minimise PR risks

Firstly, your company should take measures to prevent bad publicity by doing things such as offering the correct employee training, having an issues management plan in place and practicing in the most ethical manner that you can.

All your employees need to be aware of your company’s brand values and the importance of good client/customer service. If you have staff members managing social media, they need to understand the tone of voice required and they must be aware of how to deal with negative commenters or ’trolls’.

You also need to make sure that you have a clear, outlined complaints procedure that makes your customers feel valued and helps prevent small complaints escalating into larger ones.

Prepare for the worst

Unfortunately, any company can receive negative publicity, even if they have taken steps to minimise the risks. Faulty products, customer complaints, disagreements with online trolls and even things that are completely out of your control can all make the headlines – just look at this bizarre story involving Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger. Therefore, you must put a contingency plan in place to deal with these situations.

Offer key staff members media training, make sure employees know they must not speak to press without permission and appoint one person to take all calls from journalists about the subject.

Managing bad publicity

Let’s say that even with all your preventative measures, something does go wrong. It’s never nice for a company to face negative publicity, but the next steps you take will be crucial in avoiding any further reputational damage.

As tempting as it is to either bury your head in the sand or retaliate immediately, you must first take a step back and establish what the attention you are receiving is in relation to. Take some time to analyse the crisis;

  • Refer to your issues management plan.
  • How will the incident affect you and your staff?
  • Will it change how your customers view you?
  • How long will it follow you around?
  • Is it more serious and do other bodies need to be called in?


Giving yourself enough time to answer these questions will ensure that you don’t overreact before responding.

Once you have considered the situation, you need to establish if it’s actually worth responding. If the bad press is in a national newspaper or magazine you will need to respond. However, if it’s on a fairly new blog or a news site that ranks very low on Google, it may be worth holding back from an official statement and simply monitor the situation to see how it develops.

If you think the situation needs a response and you know you are at fault, the best course of action is to take responsibility in an honest and timely manner. People will appreciate that mistakes can happen, however, what they won’t appreciate is companies lying or hiding the truth from them.

Address the issues in a factual, non-emotive and balanced style. Now is not the time to burn bridges; don’t be insulting or negative about anyone involved. Stress how you will be using the incident as a way to improve your services in the future.

If you feel like you have been misrepresented, don’t be afraid to counteract inaccuracies in your response, but you must remain balanced. Communication is key here, contact the right journalists or editors to get inaccurate information changed and use your own website and social media to set the record straight.

Don’t reply to the press with “no comment”, as this implies you have something to hide. If you are still working out your strategy, tell them you are reviewing the situation and will release an official statement shortly.

Make it work to your advantage

Now for the challenging part – making bad PR work to your advantage. This is not applicable in every situation, some PR disasters are just too negative for anything good to come out of them, such as the the BP oil spill and the Volkswagen emissions scandal. Despite that, a well handled issue can go some way to building business credibility and restoring your brand’s reputation.

After you have been honest and open in your official response, show how you are using the situation as an opportunity to improve. Keep up communications with your customers and offer them information on how you are evolving and adapting to make things even better. Show them that you are listening and fixing the initial problem. Don’t act like a robot and it will be much more likely that people will be forgiving.

Make as much effort as you can to produce positive PR content. If you’ve been thrust into the media spotlight, give them something to look at. Emphasise your improved practices, have your staff volunteer at a charity or point out your customer satisfaction rate. Use the attention to your advantage, and don’t be afraid to shout out about your achievements.


A great example of turning bad PR into brilliant PR is the case of the American Red Cross rogue tweet. A social media specialist at the charity mistook her work’s Twitter profile for her personal account and sent out the tweet: “Ryan has found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer… when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd”.

This was immediately picked up on the micro-blogging site and seen by thousands of people. However, instead of offering a robot like official response, the Red Cross deleted the tweet and made light of it in its apology. In response to this, the beer brand mentioned in the original Tweet, Dogfish Head, asked people to donate to Red Cross using the hashtag #gettingslizzerd.

The calm and good natured response from the Red Cross not only won them free publicity, but helped them to receive more donations thanks to Dogfish Head. This is a great example of how something that could have been a PR disaster was turned around thanks to the quick thinking and open mindedness of the Red Cross.

So, if you find yourself in a PR crisis, keep calm, take a step back, consider your options and put your contingency plan in place.

It will eventually pass and the negativity will be forgotten about. If you’re lucky, your PR disaster might even turn into a PR success!

If you need help or guidance on managing your company’s PR or any potential issues, Peppermint Soda can help. Call us today on 0161 941 4252 to see what we can do for you.