What to do when you get negative press?
There are some who would say that negative press is better than no press at all. “As long as they spell your name right,” the old adage goes. While there is some truth to that, getting negative press can seriously damage your company or nonprofit’s reputation, endangering your funding, your customer base and your very future. For recent examples, you need look no further than the Komen Foundation, United Way, Penn State, or Bank of America, to name a few.
Each of these entities made some missteps that received intense media scrutiny. The constant barrage of negative press has tarnished their reputations. While some are on the road to recovery, it’s a hard road–and one of the most challenging strategic communications issues. What should you do if you find yourselves in a media firestorm?
1) Assess the situation. What has caused the fire? Is this something that was caused by your actions or inaction? Have you been the target of a smear campaign? How is the discussion about you being framed? What else is going on in your industry? Is this an assault on your work or industry? Or are you merely a vehicle to talk about a much larger issue?
For example, suppose you are a nonprofit that provides food and clothing to homeless individuals. Perhaps another large nonprofit in your area that provides similar services is found to have an employee that embezzled funds, the majority of which came from state and federal government sources. The organization tries to cover up the mismanagement of funds, but the press gets wind of it and then writes a series of article about the corruption at this agency and how government funds were wasted. The target isn’t so much homelessness and the agencies that help combat it, but rather the use of taxpayer dollars. If you don’t understand the frame, you can’t mount a counter attack effectively.