Time for a little against the grain advice. The common response to bad press and criticism now is to face it head on, own up to the problem, take responsibility, and be as transparent as possible. The utopian approach is all well and good, but I believe that in many situations the proper response is to simply ignore the bad press and criticism.
Don’t Validate the small issues
Any time that you (your company) responds to a criticism you are validating it. If there is a criticism that is definitively unfounded then it’s OK to say that, but if the criticism is valid then the best response, at least initially, is to ignore. When you make a public response to a criticism you are validating the issue and giving the party making the allegation all the power. Unless the criticism is coming from an outlet with a huge following then ignoring will usually lead to the problem just going away.
Here’s an example: If your app has a bug that’s being discussed on a forum then you should work as quickly as possible to fix the problem, without trying to join the conversation. Once you fix the problem the forum’s users will see that and the tone of the conversation will change. They will suspect that you’ve heard their complaint and addressed the issue, but they won’t be sure. For all they know it could’ve been a temporary issue or something maintenance related. If the issue continues to spread to other forums, blogs, or social channels then it may be time to start rolling out the public relations campaign to respond The goal is to act quickly to resolve the issue to keep it from ever reaching the masses in the first place.
This Isn’t Always The Solution
If you have an issue that’s gaining widespread attention then you should immediately seek to gain control of the issue. If there’s a bug to be fixed then fix it and respond. If you have a business practice that others are maligning (right or wrong) then you should wait a couple of days, and if the issue is still there, you should formally respond. It’s OK to defend yourself. In today’s uber-politically-correct world people forget that they actually have the right to defend themselves. You don’t have to just sit back and take the criticism. If you want to fight the allegations then you absolutely should do that.
Bringing It Home
What’s your response when you start receiving bad press? Do you immediately respond? I’d love to hear your experiences!
Image credit: HPUPhotogStudent on Flickr