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How to Handle Negative Publicity in a Positive Manner

It happened. One of your worst fears as a business professional has been realized – Your brand received negative publicity. 

Now what?

Though you’d rather crawl into a hole and wait until the backlash passes, brands need to swiftly and effectively manage negative coverage through a strategic and well-executed press release. 

The Power of a Press Release

Although receiving and having to address negative press isn’t an ideal situation, it’s necessary to prepare for it, just in case. 

One of the best ways to issue a statement in response to negative press is by distributing a press release.

A press release is an authoritative piece of content that can help a brand clearly and effectively articulate its stance on the issue at hand. 

If your company is dealing with negative publicity, a press release can and should be your first line of defense to properly handle the situation. 

When drafting this type of press release, consider the following:

7 Ways to Handle Negative Publicity in a Positive Manner

Say Something

Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

Remember that scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Actor Ben Stein stands at the front of the class calling attendance and when it comes to Ferris, Stein calls his last name over and over again as the camera pans to an empty desk chair. 

Don’t let your brand be that empty desk chair. 

If your company receives bad press, it’s important that you’re present and prepared to answer the roll call of the public with a well-crafted press release. 

Get the Facts Straight

It’s human nature to kick into high gear when something goes awry. 

It’s like a firefighter responding to a call. They drop everything they’re doing, get their gear on, and are prepared to rush to the emergency within seconds. 

In a way, you’re a firefighter putting out the flames of negative press. 

But, before you switch on the fire hose, pause and assess the situation. 

Taking action without getting the facts straight can fan the flame of negative press. 

That’s why it’s important to slow down, collect all the facts, and think through any weak spots in your planned response. Doing so helps clear the air so you can see the big picture and react accordingly. 

Be Honest

As the popular adage states, honesty is the best policy.

This is especially true when handling negative press. 

It’s never a good idea to try and hide or cover up bad news because chances are people either already know or they’ll find out. 

If you get caught in a cover-up, things will inevitably get worse. 

The good news about this bad news is you have a chance to address it head-on. 

Be upfront and don’t hide anything.

A pithy response to bad press can make people suspicious and damage a brand’s credibility. 

Remember, people don’t buy from brands they don’t trust. Transparency and honesty will go a long way when addressing a negative situation. 

Stay on Topic

Keep the shiny balls tucked away for another time. 

When faced with negative publicity, don’t try and divert the public’s attention away from it. Doing so can make it seem like your brand is avoiding the issue and not taking accountability. 

Address the main points of contention and stick to the facts and the topic at hand when drafting your press release.

Don’t Play the Blame Game

Accountability: /əˌkoun(t)əˈbilədē/: the fact or condition of being accountable; responsibility.

The blame game makes the person (or brand) pointing the finger look worse. Take accountability for your brand’s part of the problem and address the issue with facts. 

Owning up to a problem can strengthen a brand’s credibility and lessen the damage done to its reputation. 

Create a Unified Front

Internal efforts can determine your external perception. 

If one c-suite executive says one thing and another goes on record with a contradictory statement, will that make the company look better or worse?


Before making a public statement, go over the situation and your company’s response with a fine-tooth comb to ensure all parties involved understand how the brand as a whole is handling the situation. 

A united front creates a level of authenticity and professionalism that can go a long way when dealing with bad press. 

Look Ahead

Negative publicity provides companies with an opportunity to readjust their strategy and look ahead to the future. 

If faced with bad publicity, work through the other six tips we shared and then articulate your vision with the audience. 

Forward-thinking adds a layer of positivity and authenticity that shows consumers and the media your brand is learning from the mishap and acting accordingly to make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

In the press release, talk about how you’re planning to become a better company because of this, and then align your future actions with your words and intentions.
Do you need help with your press release distribution efforts? Speak with a PR Strategist today to learn more about our industry-leading solutions.

Maria Marchewka is a Digital Marketing Strategist at Newswire. Maria is an experienced copywriter, social media marketer, content creator, strategist, and project manager. Her firm belief in being a practitioner and not a preacher of marketing concepts has put her in a position to help companies build brand awareness and connect with their target audiences online.

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