Many different things can lead to bad publicity for your small business. Unhappy customers, a slip-up on social media, a change in your company that left a few people displeased... sometimes it is avoidable and sometimes it is not. However, the way you react is crucial.
Follow our three tips to avoid bad publicity or to, at least, avoid it turning into a real crisis for your business.
1) Ensuring you don’t get caught out by regulations:
While governments do aim to incentivise people to start up and grow small businesses by reducing red tape, the truth is that there will always be regulations that your business will need to adhere to.
Regulations like right-to-work checks and the living wage laws will impact all small businesses, but in individual sectors, there will be specific requirements your business needs to adhere to.
For example, in April there are a number of changes being made to employment legislation, so if your business employs staff you need to ensure you adhere to the new rules.
By failing to adhere to regulations you run the risk of negative press, so the best piece of advice with regulations is to ensure you’re up-to-date with pieces of legislation that may affect all small businesses, as well as industry-specific legislation.
One of the easiest ways to keep up to date with legislation related to your sector is to subscribe to an industry magazine or publication.
2) Being on the side of your customers:
Business is about building relationships with your customers.
They need to know, like, and trust you and your small business. If they feel like you are on their side you will inspire loyalty to your brand.
One of the best, most recent, examples of this is Tesco and their dispute with Unilever over products such as Marmite.
While Unilever wanted to pass price increases onto Tesco, who would, in turn, have had to increase prices in their stores, Tesco stood firm and refused to pay the increased costs.The issue was eventually resolved, and Tesco received many plaudits for their commitment to their customers.
In the case of the Tesco-Unilever issue, other supermarket chains were left with bad publicity in comparison with Tesco because they had not fought for their customers in the same way.
One piece of advice to ensure your customers always think you are fighting their corner is to use PR to highlight this. What are you doing to help your customers? What challenges has your small business overcome as you fight for your customers?
3) Limiting the damage:
If or when you do receive bad media coverage it’s important to stay calm and act rationally. Remember that your reaction will almost certainly be covered in the media as well, so you need to manage the situation correctly.
If the media coverage is justified, acknowledge the complaint and address the issue. Not commenting simply implies guilt.
But equally, if the negative coverage is unjustified, then say just that, but justify your reasons for saying that. As a check that you are being reasonable, test your response with an independent person and ask for honest feedback.
A great example of damage limitation is Mike Ashley’s appearance in front of MP’s over Sports Directs failure to adhere to minimum wage legislation. By admitting to the problem, coming clean with issues surrounding it, and providing a solution, Ashley limited the amount of further publicity the company faced.
While lots of PR companies do offer crisis management services, if you are going to hire a consultant to help with this, you’re best to talk to someone who has actually been there in the firing line. All the scars they have will amount to knowledge that you can use to build your armoury.
However, for small businesses running their own PR effort these three tips should help you stay out of trouble and avoid you being caught out. If you would like to hear more of our business tips or would like more information about how you can get more media coverage for your business, sign up to our newsletter here.
Written by: Ben Caine, Client Manager
As a former journalist, Ben has a keen eye for news. He is passionate about small businesses, and is the main point of contact if you need help making full use of the JournoLink platform.