How to Handle Negative Public Relations

Before my upperclass-woman days, I thought I wanted to pursue a career in public relations. It wasn’t until my junior year that I started to fall in love with the fields of marketing and business. Public relations can make or break your brand. United Airlines broke a man’s guitar and now millions of people across the globe have heard him sing about it on YouTube! Talk about a PR nightmare. Matters were made even worse when a United customer was dragged off of a plane by his feet. Again… a nightmare!

You can have the best product, the best service, and all of the great marketing plans in the world, but one bit of bad publicity could ruin your hard work. I’m not in the field of PR nor do I want to be, but I do believe that it greatly benefits marketing lovers to learn about the functions of PR.

Here’s an example. At my university, enrollment dropped during the 2016-2017 academic year. This was largely in part because of negative press.

University Communications: JSU has great academic programs and a rich history of Black excellence.

Media: JSU administrators use foundation funds for personal bills. JSU faces lawsuits from several employees. JSU loses millions in cash reserves over 5 years.

That list truly goes on and on. Can you see how negative PR impacted my university’s ¬†promotion strategies? This post is mainly for those of you building your own brand and combatting bad press on your own, but those of you with in-house public relations teams are welcome to this bit of advice. When you’re focusing on your promotional efforts, be advised that there will be trolls. These are social media folks that just want to say something negative about your brand. There will also be people who openly disagree with your brand. So what do you do about it?

There are many brands that won’t address it. This is the wrong approach. I say address it… directly! Someone purchased your product and they hate it. Respond publicly to them in a polite and resolving manner. You’ll get cool points from your other followers for sure. You’re a fitness enthusiast who was just accused of being a fit tea scammer. Give the people a new narrative to go on by destroying the accusations and using that press to gain more brand awareness. You don’t have to be a PR professional to save your brand from a potential disaster. Exercise good sense and remember that publicity goes hand in hand with your marketing efforts.

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