Ah, the spotlight. We love it. After all, in this attention economy, more eyeballs mean more success. But while we all dream of being at the center of a viral buzz, we have to be careful what we wish for. Because not all PR is good PR. (Just ask Kendall Roy.)
Negative publicity happens when your company or someone in it has misstepped and badly. Sure, you might build some brand awareness with it, but you can bet it’s the wrong kind of brand awareness. And the impact can affect employee morale, employee retention, brand loyalty, and even sales.
Here’s how to minimize your chances of making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Dream Up the Worst-Case Scenario
Got a brilliant campaign idea or #hashtag you want to go viral? Channel your inner George Costanza to examine your idea from a variety of different perspectives – and imagine all the ways it could go wrong. Could your idea backfire? Rub people the wrong way? Be misinterpreted or misread? Think about what could go wrong, and assess just how likely that is to happen. Proceed when you’ve decided that the risk/reward ratio is worth it – and always have plan B in your pocket just in case.
Get Some Cultural Sensitivity Training
The bigger the brand, the broader its target audience. That means you need to be deeply aware of cultural norms and sensitivities – especially when reaching into a new market. Product names, branding, infrastructure location, marketing campaigns, and even social media posts are all things that can inspire negative pushback if your brand fails to read the room. Having a culturally diverse staff is one way to minimize risk, and cultural sensitivity training and awareness can also help. Before you hit “launch” on that idea, run it by people of that community and test it in your target market to make sure you’re not inadvertently causing offense or even harm.
Tread Carefully in Public
Social media can feel like a fun party with friends. But the whole world can see what you put out there. Even if you get poster’s remorse and hit that “delete” button asap, you can bet that someone has taken a screenshot. Make sure all social posts are approved and that your team is trained on how to respond to comments or feedback – and ready to escalate them if needed. Be mindful of the different “norms” on each platform (especially Twitter!) to minimize a pile-on. And invest in social media monitoring tools so that you can be alerted when a PR storm might be coming your way.
Stay True to Your Brand
Sometimes, something that’s smooth sailing for one brand could be a PR disaster for another. Take Ben & Jerry’s notable social media “silence” earlier this year, something that became a talking point for a brand with social justice at its core. Or the negative buzz around Chanel’s ho-hum advent calendar, an offering at odds with the brand’s luxury positioning. When launching a campaign, making a strategic move, or dealing with customer pushback, consider how central your brand identity and positioning are to the issue. Or, if broader social issues are at work, be prepared to chime in if that’s what your brand is all about. After all, if your brand is all about “taking a stand,” you’d better.
The Storm is Here…Now What?
It’s rare to move through the business world without raising any eyebrows. If a PR situation is headed your way, act quickly to regain control of the narrative, take responsibility for the situation, and commit to doing better in the future. (Or, if you’re Facebook, just rebrand.) It also helps to have a pro team in your corner to help with damage control and mitigation.
At StellaPop, we can help. We’ve got the business and PR savvy to help your business grow without risking that hard-earned brand equity. We can help you walk the line between boundary-pushing and line-crossing – so that you and your customers can rest easy. So if you need some help developing a solid PR strategy, get in touch today!