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PR Framework for Negative News

PR Framework for Negative News

discussion on LinkedIn that I started about PR strategies for dealing with a difficult blogger has reminded me of the three basic choices in crisis communications a former colleague once espoused.

These concepts were conveyed long before social media or blogs took center stage and are really designed as a PR framework considering a response to a negative news article — in the traditional sense. However, it is interesting to me, that despite the new vehicle social media provides, these still seem like sound principles.

I will offer one caveat: this is a framework for a response to something that is not only negative but also unjustified. Everyone has a right to their view, some people just need help articulating their ideas and to me, that is fundamentally what .

To the best of my recollection my colleague said that in response to a negative news article you can choose one of the following courses of action:

1. Do nothing.

This is a good strategy when you think the article will simply blow over or be buried in a few days. Repeating or calling attention to a negative article only serves to legitimize the point.

2. Respond.

How you choose to give your response is the key task here. What you say is equally as important as how you say it, both in tone and medium (i.e. a phone call vs. an e-mail or a letter-to-the-editor vs. a request for a clarifying interview). Generally, I feel the latter is a good approach when you feel a reporter is truly interested in providing an accurate and fair account.

In my experience, most reporters are very contentious and professional. One word of caution: the mere fact that you are responding implicitly connotes you feel a report is inaccurate or unfair. That can be a complicating factor.

3. Go above to editorial management.

This is a risky venture, and if you feel it’s necessary you’d better be sure you have your facts straight. This might be an approach worth considering if you believe a reporter is being vindictive. Chances are, like any good manager, they will tend to favor their staff’s work. Once you burn that bridge, it’s nearly impossible to rebuild.

* * *

The best bet is to stay ahead of the curve and be proactive. If you have erred in judgment, it’s best to as Lanny Davis wrote on the cover of his book, Truth to Tell, “Tell it early, tell it all, tell it yourself.”

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Photo credit:  Flickr, H. Michael Miley (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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