How to Turn Negative Publicity into a PR Opportunity

7 minute read

How to Turn Negative Publicity into a PR Opportunity

Even a large company can have missteps sometimes. PR specialists will argue that it’s the law of large numbers. Anybody can and will make a mistake, so it’s important that enterprises have a plan in place for how to deal with negative publicity.

Brands face backlash more often these days because people are reacting to what they think is right and wrong. They’re doing it quickly and often without much thought. Anybody can take to Twitter or other social platforms and post whatever they want about your company – whether it is true or not.

This makes companies vulnerable to individuals who review their activity and immediately respond to it. Competitors and clients are listening and watching brands, waiting for them to fail and label an unfortunate situation as #controversial, #discriminatory, and #badexample on Twitter or Instagram.

Even if your company is faced with negative PR, it doesn’t have to mean it’s the end of the world. There are things you can do before, during, and after a negative event that will help your company to recover and maintain a positive online reputation. This blog will share our best tips for dealing with negative PR:

What is negative PR?

Negative PR is the practice of spreading negative news about a brand. It often destroys the brand’s reputation and corporate identity. Negative PR can discredit a company or individual. Popular discrediting techniques are:

  • Fake news
  • Employee mistakes
  • Negative reviews
  • Disclosure of corporate dirty secrets
  • Production of misleading facts

How do you deal with negative PR?

There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy everyone can use to deal with negative PR. But there are a few things to keep in mind when developing your brand’s strategy. We’ll discuss them later in the article.

But first, Let’s take a look at Facebook, for example, a brand that came under fire in 2018. How they responded to backlash is an example for all companies. Instead of ignoring the allegations, Facebook responded to them upfront. The way a brand manages negative news tells the public a lot about its values.

facebook search results

It is critical to respond to negative publicity and attempt to recover from it quickly. If you don’t, not only could your reputation suffer, but as a result, your sales might too. BrightLocal’s Consumer Review Survey 2019 provides evidence that a business’s online reputation directly affects company profits:

  • 90% of consumers used the internet to find a local business in the last year, with 33% looking every day
  • The average consumer reads 10 reviews before feeling able to trust a business
  • Only 53% of people would consider using a business with less than 4 stars
  • Among consumers that read reviews, 97% read businesses’ responses to reviews

What people say about you online is important. So, here is how to handle negative PR and turn it into a marketing opportunity.

Promote your brand as a problem solver

Negative publicity is an opportunity for your brand to collect feedback. Analyze each piece of bad news posted about your company. If your audience states that you need to improve your services, then you should listen to them. Most unsatisfied customers will still buy from you again if you resolve the complaint in their favor. When a client isn’t happy with the services you provide, try to understand what you’re doing wrong and find a solution.

By solving the problems your clients highlight, you build a better relationship with them and transform negative publicity into a positive one. Each solution will help your reputation recover.

Prompt apologies drive sympathy

When employees offend clients or your brand’s policy threatens their satisfaction or safety, you need to solve the problem and apologize for them. To be effective, a team manager should either call them or write a sincere and swift letter. You need to take responsibility for what happened. If you’re having trouble writing a professional letter, you can choose to work with a company that provides academic essay writers to review your apology letter and ensure it doesn’t contain writing errors.

Track both positive and negative reviews

If you want to restore your reputation, then you need to divert attention from any negative reviews. Identify them and respond to each client who had a bad experience. Sometimes, negative reviews show up in search results even if you solved the issue because there’s no positive information listed about your brand. To have them removed, you need to ask satisfied clients to post feedback. Often, the directories that host reviews will remove negative ones when you prove they’re untrue.

Reviews are crucial for a business’ success. 15% of people don’t trust brands without reviews, and they are considered a powerful ranking factor for Google. When you cannot remove negative reviews, diffuse them with positive comments and publicity by improving reviews and ratings for your brand. 

Don’t let negative reviews control your business. Solve the problem the best you can and then move on to improving services. Don’t become obsessed with how negative feedback affects your reputation, but do understand that it takes time to turn things around. Be patient. You have your brand in your hands if you create a strong reputation management strategy. Reputation management is a complex process, but it’s worth making the effort.

Let the world know when false rumors are…false

Even big brands like Nutella and Amway have been victims of false news. By addressing rumors as false, you prove to clients they can trust your services. Removing misinformation maintains loyal clients.

In 2016, reports panicked the world when the news announced that Nutella contains carcinogenic palm oil. To address the false rumors, the company shared with the public the ingredients of the chocolate-hazelnut spread. The scandal didn’t affect sales.


Often, reputation damage comes from a mismatch between buzz and reality. Tracking false rumors and addressing them helps you maintain your trustworthiness.

Humanize your brand

When your clients have a bad experience because of your products or services, you shouldn’t ignore them. Acknowledging their problems helps your brand look human. Encourage people to contact your customer service team when they’re facing issues. Show them you are listening to what they have to say by solving their problem, sending apologies, and asking for feedback and suggestions.

Thank people when they provide feedback, no matter if it’s positive or negative. It shows audiences how valuable their opinions are, and makes them comfortable to contact you in the future. As stated before, reviews are a positive tool for promoting your brand.

People will connect with a brand that shares the same values as them. Here are a few tips to humanize your brand:

  • Show the people behind the work (use real photos of real people who work for your company)
  • Your team members can become brand ambassadors
  • Create an online community for your clients
  • Personalize your marketing content
  • Send Welcome/Thank You letters to loyal clients
  • Tell stories of failure and what you’ve learned

Use every opportunity to improve your online image

Your brand’s reputation is a valuable asset and it can make or break your success. Learn from big companies and their mistakes. When dealing with backlash, you can gain valuable insight to make changes to problems you didn’t realize you had to make your company even better. Learning from big brands is always a good practice.

Negative publicity FAQs

What is negative PR?

Negative PR is the practice of spreading negative news about a brand. Some of the most common discrediting techniques are: fake news, negative reviews, and disclosure of corporate dirty secrets. Negative PR can cause lasting damage to a brand's reputation and corporate identity. 

What are the best ways to combat negative PR?

The first step in dealing with a negative PR campaign is to apologize. Then, you can use this as an opportunity to market your brand as a problem solver. Track positive and negative reviews to keep a pulse on the situation and respond to feedback.

How can I humanize my brand?

Humanizing your brand can make it easier to recover from negative publicity. Here are a few ways to do it. Spotlight your employees. Create an online community of brand ambassadors. Personalize your marketing content. Tell stories of failure and growth.