No such thing as bad publicity? Five ways to manage the fallout

Tips on how to cope with a reputation crisis

Controversy: TalkSport signed Andy Gray and Richard Keys in the wake of the Sky Sports sexism row
Controversy: TalkSport signed Andy Gray and Richard Keys in the wake of the Sky Sports sexism row

1. Admit your mistake

The golden rule when something does go wrong is to put your hands up, admit your mistake, and explain your plans for putting it right. Do not try to ignore criticism or to talk over it, hoping to drown it out. The prevalence of 24-hour news and social media means you simply cannot control the conversation in this way.

2. Own the space

The quicker you respond to criticism, the greater your chance of directing the conversation will be. Delay and before you know it bloggers will be commenting on your actions, news media will be picking up the blogs, and tweets will be flying around the world about it all. So, provide a clear statement immediately, and if possible, provide a central forum for the discussion to take place.

3. Be consistent in messaging

Once spokespeople have strayed off message into the realms of bad taste, it becomes more essential than ever that the brand portrays a clear, consistent message. So, make sure that everyone involved knows exactly what position you are taking and is kept fully informed of how the situation develops.

4. Consider making amends

Sometimes it is not enough to confess your sins; sometimes the public demands atonement. It may be that you need to make a charitable donation, or, even better, commit some time to charity work. Or you may need to make changes to the way your company operates or the work your celebrity does.

5. Get reinforcements

Hill & Knowlton's Luckett adds: 'As in the traditional media, when crisis strikes, 90 per cent of your chances of success depend on the current state of your reputation. Have you a history of using the channels appropriately for some time and have you built up a respected online following who can spring to your defence? If you have been wise enough to build this army of reinforcements, now is the time to deploy them.'

Reputation management feature

Five steps to getting it right

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