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Planning for the possible.

Have you ever considered what you’d do if ever your brand was dragged through the mud? It’s not an impossibility so planning for it could be considered a tactical manoeuvre. Because let’s face it – mistakes happen. People hide the truth. Technology lets us down and sometimes things are simply out of our control.

But the good news is that there are ways to turn bad publicity into better publicity.

Show your positives upfront

As a brand, if you let the public know who you are, what you do, what you stand for, how you give back to society – all way before anything bad possibly happens, when that day comes – because it most likely will, you’ll have found a way to perhaps water down the negative impact of bad press. But it’s not enough to just tell your audience these things, you’ll need to act on them too. You’ll need to walk your talk.

Failing to plan is planning to fail

It’s best to plan for these kinds of things. Odd to say but you’ll at least minimise the potential damage while taking control of the situation. Imagine your worst case scenario and build a plan around that. You’ll need to act quicker than quick to help stem the tide of bad publicity, so a social media response strategy shouldn’t be overlooked. And depending on how big the blunder is, you may need to get a PR company to handle all communications and make sure the Big Guns are present and available to answer any media questions.

Always be upfront

And apologise and be accountable for any actions or lack thereof. When trust has been broken the best thing to do is admit the mistake and take decisive action. People will react in a far more positive way towards the situation if you’re upfront, genuinely apologetic and transparent about the problem. And don’t shift blame either. That makes your situation far worse. Take for example in a scandal two years ago, it was found that Tesco had sold horse meat to its customers. Instead of taking it on the chin and making genuine amends, it apologised for the situation but turned around and blamed the food industry in general, removing the responsibility from its shoulders.

It’s not often large corporations make public apologies. But one that did – and did it well was Johnson & Johnson. In 2011, it found itself in a bit of hot water when one of their products, OB Tampons was experiencing supply chain management issues and appeared to be discontinued in North America. Loyal customers were upset and caused an uproar. A sincere apology was sent out through a personalised music video to all its customers. Typing in a website address, and adding a female name, (the list covered over 1000 women’s names) a handsome man sitting at a white piano on the beach sang an apology to the person whose name was typed in. It had an enormous positive response and even made people realise that behind the brand are people, people who made a mistake and who were genuinely sorry for upsetting their customers.

Make the most of a difficult situation

In view of bad press, finding the positives in a situation like this is where your brand can regain its stability. It’s usually times like these that your brand has an opportunity to showcase its core values. And, sometimes situations like these help a brand to revisit its position in the industry. It’s also an opportunity to make amends with your market by showing what you’re doing differently so that things are better for your customers, you and your brand.

And slowly you’ll be able to regain the trust of your public where the brand they loved is still what they thought it was: honourable, transparent and guided by good values and principles.

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