The old addage that even bad news can be good is one I have been pondering recently. Having led on difficult news days and devised crisis comms plans I would say that when in the eye of the storm I may have begged to differ but managed correctly even an initial negative story can be negotiated into a neutral one and with savvy and timely comms even a positive one, but not always.
There are a few businesses and individuals who almost seem to base their brand on bad publicity. Chris Brown on a Ryanair flight, served Findus lasagne with Justin Bieber as co-pilot anyone?
Nestle and BP are probably prime examples of an ongoing crisis and negative publicity resulting in multimillion advertising and marketing spends with a far-reaching CSR plan to try and claw back share price and reputation.
Tesco press office, regular wearers of the bad news flack jacket, were probably caught on the hop when the news the retail giant had a share in the Harris & Hoole coffee chain blew-up like a literal hoolie.
So what can you do to steer bad news? A few simple things will help you steady the ship.
1. Have a crisis plan! Know who does what in a crisis, run through possible scenarios that your business could find themselves in and plan what you would do and say.
2. Never. Ever. Ever say "no comment". Never lie once the cat is out of the bag either. Issue a short statement immediately, even if if buys you time and you just announce a time you will say something. A journalist hates being left out in the cold and they will turn on you if you don't feed them. It isn't personal, it's their job.
3. Know the log-in details to social media. As HMV managers found out to their cost making the social media team redundant can lead to live streaming.
4. Show your customers or clients what you are doing to remedy the situation, be clear and be bold. Say sorry. But it will probably cost you money!
5. It is probably wise to have a press team or an agency on a retainer so you can call in the experts.
6. Finally, if your brand allows it don't take yourselves too seriously. Lynx, Burger King, Innocent etc have all managed to get out of some potential crises, in part due to their image and brand loyalty. The price of which shouldn't be underestimated.