Each spring, I like to enjoy the warmer weather by walking the many trails in my neighborhood. I’m often disturbed by dive-bombing red winged blackbirds, nature’s guerilla warriors who can strike out of the blue, totally upsetting a peaceful stroll.
Being the subject of a negative article or social media post can feel the same. Your otherwise sanguine world is upended by what feels like a personal attack to your business or challenge to your integrity. So what should you do if you find yourself maligned in a story or the poster child for someone’s scorn?
Check the facts
First, make sure the author has the correct information. Check the source of the data and make sure there isn’t an error. On more than one occasion, we’ve found numbers from a reporting agency that led to an article were actually wrong. Getting it corrected quickly can end your suffering and get your name out of a negative story.
If you feel like there is more to the story or the author has it wrong, reach out to clarify your position. Perhaps a story relies on incomplete, but true information. Call the writer and share the full information. Make sure you provide the appropriate back up to make your case. Many will listen to you and potentially add additional context.
Write a rebuttal
If the story is a matter of opinion and you think the reporter got it wrong, reach out to explain your position. If the reporter doesn’t budge, reach out to the editor. If there is still no action, write a letter to the editor or post a comment online. In today’s digital age, stories live on and it helps to set the record straight. Even if the story continues to run, your response will also be available to provide additional context. You can also share your rebuttal with concerned customers or others who read the original piece but didn’t see your response.
Here it is important to be factual and reasoned in your response. Try not to be too defensive, angry or emotional—the reporter in question is taking notes and could add whatever you tell them and however you say it as an update to the story. Simply make your case and tell the fuller story you believe was missing in the original article.
Get back out there
The temptation when negative news hits is to try to hide. But people’s perceptions are shaped by more than just one article. If you produce timely and interesting thought leadership, seek to get it placed in other publications. Maintain an engaged and proactive social media effort.
While the tendency to feel once burned twice shy is widespread, try to maintain a good relationship with the author. While you may not want to favor said reporter with your next big announcement, he or she is likely to continue covering you and your firm. Give them a chance to get to know you better and cover your other stories.
In the end, know that your reputation is about more than one article. Successful public relations creates a mosaic of impressions across media and social media. While it’s no fun to be the subject of negative news, you can get beyond it more quickly and effectively by not ignoring it. Rest assured that not every reporter, or bird for that matter, is planning to attack you.