If your business is confronted with bad publicity, the typical advice you get from communications consultants is to act immediately. Do not wait until the problem “solves itself”. It will not. Do not assume that people will see the obvious nonsense of the accusations against you, your company or product. Act, present your position, let others hear you. And this advice is absolutely correct, at least in most situations.
But every cure helps only in the prescribed dose. When overdosed, it becomes poisonous. And this is sometimes difficult to understand for some hyperactive business leaders, project or product managers. They may feel an almost physical pain seeing negative coverage or false statements about their business and being told to relax and let go.
But when exactly is it better to let go?
Reacting to every detail
You got negative publicity, you replied to the reporters, you published your statement in your channels, but you see that there are a lot more inaccuracies in the coverage and even more in the comments on social media. It is tempting to correct them all. Relax. Let go. Nobody cares about the details but you. If you overcomplicate your message, people won’t get your point. Instead they will have an impression that you have something serious to hide if you get into such detailed explanations nobody understands.
Requesting media to correct minor facts
I know, it is annoying to see that the reporter omitted a zero in your sales figures. Or that they said you are number 5 on the market whereas you have been number 4 for a whole year already. It may be tempting to ask the media outlet formally to correct it. Or have your lawyer send them this request. After all, the mistake is obvious, you have data to prove it. Relax. Let go. Nobody cares but you. In print media – even if they admit to the mistake later and correct it, nobody will notice. In the future, the reporter will think twice before they write anything about your company. You will never find out that they wanted to mention you, but recalled the fuss you caused and just wrote about somebody else. Instead of a formal request for correction, simply call the reporter, thank them for the article, mention the inaccuracy and possible ask for correcting it in the online version (if published), so that the mistake does not stay on the Internet forever. They will gladly do it. And thus the mistake will not be a real issue but rather an opportunity for a friendly interaction. You will be surprised how often this will result in future positive coverage.
Reacting to every negative comment
This is true especially on social media. Even if the comments contain plain lies, reacting to every one of them just fuels the fire. Make sure your position is available to media and those who are interested, make it visible in your channels. But do not react to every time somebody says something negative. Relax. Let go. Otherwise you will bring those comments to the attention of people who would have never noticed them.
Rushing to answer when nobody asks you
Usually in a crisis we prefer to get our story out first, to set the scene for discussion. But in some cases it pays off to wait patiently. Imagine an accident at your construction site. The media and the public will be mainly interested in know if somebody got hurt, what happened and whether residents will be impacted in any way. Reporters will typically ask the city authorities, the police or fire brigade. And very often this will be it. The fact that this was your construction site, what you were building there and who are you – will be far less important (unless this is directly relevant to this particular accident). So be prepared, but do not rush to send out a release associating your brand with the accident. Just relax. Let go. But this piece of advice should be applied with caution. It may not always be correct. And the decision should be made by an experienced communications professional.
Trying to outnumber the competitors in posts or releases
Communication is about message consistency and quality content, not about the quantity of output. I have seen business leaders crying “we are losing the comms battle, the others are posting five times as much as we do on FB”. Well, do you have interesting and relevant content to post five time more often? Do you have great news to send out five times mores press releases? If you do – great. But in any case concentrate on your message. What do you want your audience to know about you? If it is relevant, they will notice, even if the competitors are flooding them with their messages. Good communication should be simple.
Do you have any other examples of situations when it makes more sense to relax and let go rather than communicate? Please share them in the comments. And if you would like to learn how to communicate in crisis, have a look at this article.