It’s expected that once in a while, a company will encounter some bad press. With the way audiences are today, it’s just a matter of time before a slip-up occurs. However, if a business is seeing consistent negative press over time, it may point to a more troubling problem. 

One piece of unflattering coverage by the media is likely just to be bad timing, but if it becomes a regular occurrence, the business needs to take note. How does a company shore up its lousy press and turn it from a loss into a win? Fourteen experts from Forbes Coaches Council share a few bits of advice about taking consistent negative press and flipping it on its head to benefit the business.

1. Own It And Apologize

Companies don’t do bad things, leaders do. During a span of negative press, somewhere along the way the leadership could have made better choices. Own the mistakes and apologize. Then turn the ship by doing the right things right away, visibly and consistently. The road to recovery may be tough, but history shows, the court of public opinion typically has a short memory span. – Teri Citterman, Talonn

2. Be Honest, Not Defensive

Transparency is key and mistakes are human. Address the negative press, but not in a defensive way. Be honest. What happened and why? What did you learn? How will you recover? What can we expect from you and how should we hold you accountable? Show vulnerability and ask for forgiveness. Then move on. How you/your company behaves after that is what matters most. No second chances after that! – Loretta Stagnitto, Loretta Stagnitto Leadership Associates

3. Face It Head-On

Face it head-on — not all bad things are bad. Bad press, while not obviously good, represents an opportunity to communicate your position. Do it head-on and use it to provide clarity of the facts in a way that humanizes what your organization is experiencing. – Jorge Gutierrez, BMOC Group

4. Turn Your Greatest Critic

The loudest critics have the potential to be the loudest advocates. If they invest the energy to criticize something, it’s because they care that much. Reaching out to them, inviting their feedback for development and fulfilling their interests, is a key strategy in turning a heckler into an effective advocate, creating a very promotable “turn-around story.” – Corey Castillo, Truth & Spears

5. Build Relationships With Reporters

Every piece of press is a piece of data to be transformed to serve your advantage. After 15 years in crisis communications, you wouldn’t believe the blunders I saw that were recovered from by owning the mistake and building a relationship with a reporter over time. The same outlets that are relentless today will be singing your praises tomorrow. – Gia Storms, STORMS COACHING & CONSULTING

6. Issue One Public Response And Move On

When companies are faced with negative press, they must assess the source and validity. If the negative press is warranted, they must address it to protect their reputation. However, it only takes one public response to recover from bad press. A straightforward press release that addresses the original negative statements is sufficient. Continuing to address negative press only fuels the fire. – Lori A. Manns, Quality Media Consultant Group LLC

7. Uncover The Cause And Fix It Immediately

You’re getting bad press for a reason. Assess the situation. Uncover the root cause. Fix it. Communicate that it’s fixed. And, more importantly, show that you will be doing things better/differently going forward. Actions truly do speak louder than words. Saying you’re sorry or saying that you’ve changed but continuing to do what you’ve always done is a surefire way to lose trust and customers. – Annette Franz, CX Journey Inc.

8. Add Humility Back Into Your Business

People normally don’t leave negative reviews unless we give them a reason to. If you’re dealing with negative reviews, you probably need to add a little humility back into your business. Trust me, it goes a long way. Try to analyze how you or your team members are treating your customers. Sometimes we “unintentionally” allow our ego and pride to affect the quality of our customer service. – Roger Doumanian, The Roger Doumanian Corporation

9. Hire An Excellent PR Company

Good crisis communication is crucial if negative press is about to destroy your reputation. The key is to pivot from reacting to taking proactive action. Address and communicate issues clearly, honestly and directly without justification nor shifting the blame — what went wrong, how you will improve and the next steps that will be taken to rectify matters. Then implement and follow through. – Sharesz T. Wilkinson, The Speech Improvement Company

10. Do A Sincere Service Recovery

Everyone drops the ball sometimes, even big companies. The best way to recover is to be sincere about it and make it right. Apologize and own it. Don’t pass the buck — everyone can smell it from a mile away. Then recover the service. People buy from a brand not because of the quality only — they love it if you are purpose-driven and demonstrate integrity. – Chuen Chuen Yeo, ACESENCE

11. Accept The Defeat And Course-Correct

We live in a time where everyone has an opinion and a place to express it and a tribe that will listen. Even if you are right, you are wrong (to them). Learn to ask questions instead of arguing. Offer the victory of a “thank you” and an apology and accept the defeat. Then course-correct to please your customers and clients into sensational reviews. – Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

12. Reassess Your Values

It’s a great idea to have an annual talk with leadership about the core values of your company and share stories of what it was like before you were uber-successful! Remember where you started and the raw passion it took to get there will help turn around any negative energy that may be hurting your company’s image today. – Miranda VonFricken, Miranda VonFricken Masterminds & Coaching

13. Don’t Be Afraid Of Getting To The Bottom

Recovery will be a challenge until you get to the bottom of the reasons for the bad press. You might find that the issues you need to address are not the most obvious ones. Don’t be afraid to invest the resources necessary to understand where the misalignment or mistakes are. This needs to happen before you can properly set a path to recovery. – Antonia Bowring, ABstrategies LLC

14. Put Your Good Cause In The Spotlight

The less a company’s good cause is visible to customers, partners and the public, the more criticism increases. Stakeholders want to experience a company positively and want their expectations to be met. Criticism increases when the added value of a company — the good cause — is not perceived. Work on the reason and create a positive feeling for the people for whom your company provides services. – Michael Thiemann, Strategy-Lab™

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