Bad Publicity – How to Deal with It

Public Relations (PR)

Bad Publicity – How to Deal with It

As a business owner, bad publicity can have a detrimental impact on your business and can even threaten the viability of your organisation.  Bad publicity is not something you can necessarily plan for – at least the timing anyway!

Take the recent Victoria’s Secret breastfeeding scandal as an example.  One of their staff members in their Austin based store in Texas refused to allow a mother to breastfeed her child instead telling her to go in the back of an alley and feed him there.  Of course there was bound to be a lot of backlash from this comment particularly as Texas has laws protecting the right of nursing mothers to feed their children in public.  So as one would expect, many nursing mothers were going to take offense on this one.

And they are not newcomers to this type of bad publicity.  It was only in 2012 when they featured one of their models wearing a Native American-style headdress.  And this time the Native Americans took offense.  While this kind of bad publicity might not damage a company as large as Victoria’s Secret in the long term, it certainly could damage a smaller business.

So how would you deal with publicity like this?  Some media marketing specialists maintain that even bad publicity is good publicity but that of course depends on the size of the business and the manner of the complaint.  It may work for Miley Cyrus or the Kardashians but not for all.

Issuing an apology if you or your organisation is at fault is certainly a good place to start as is demonstrating to your customers how you have addressed the issue and why it definitely won’t happen again.  And in case you were wondering, yes Victoria’s Secret did do this.

“We take this issue very seriously.  We have a longstanding policy permitting mothers to nurse their children in stores and we are sorry that it was not followed in this case.  We have apologized to Ms. Clawson, and we are taking actions to ensure all associates understand our policy that welcomes mothers to breastfeed in our stores.”

It is best to be open about what happened as any lies you make to cover up the truth may just come back and bite you – Lance Armstrong anyone?

If there are mistruths beings spread then fix it.  It is worth taking the time to provide accurate information and share your side of the story.  Hiding away from negative press will do nothing to win you fans.  No comment definitely sends mixed messages.

Contact those involved and sort out the issue – fast.  You may just be able to turn it into positive press if you act fast enough - maybe just maybe.

Once it is seemingly under control then you must identify why and how the issue occurred and ideally be able to prevent it from happening in the future.  You may need to focus on your marketing strategy and vamp it up a notch to endeavour to build up your reputation with some smart strategic planning.

Never rest on your laurels hoping your reputation to date will have earned you enough brownie points.  Act and act quickly to stop the bad publicity from spreading even further.

Michelle Tupy

Content Writer at Freelance Writer

Michelle Tupy ( is a content writer and copy writer who quite happily spends her time behind the scenes writing Facebook posts, blog posts and articles on behalf of busy managers as well as writing and publishing eBooks.

Comments (4)
Wendy Huang

Wendy Huang, Full Time Blogger and YouTuber at A Custom Blog in 4 Minutes

Having the pressure to be perfect all the time is really stressful so thanks for giving us some strategies when things go wrong! I didn't hear about the VS scandal, wow!

Phil Khor

Phil Khor, Founder at

Great tips Michelle. No one's perfect! Mistakes or mistruths can easily blow out of proportions online, so we can't stand on ceremony. And when we act, it's our genuine care and concern for our customers that will resonate with the hearts and minds of many. Thanks for sharing. :)

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