How to Deal with a Backlash


25 Feb How to Deal with a Backlash

Companies don’t always get it right. In fact, it seems as though every other day we hear a new story about an employee gone rogue or a bad customer experience that went viral. In this day and age, a single tweet by a member of the public can be enough to wipe millions of dollars from a company’s valuation.

That’s why it’s so important for people to have a plan in place so that if something does go wrong, they’re ready to leap into action to protect the company’s reputation and to minimise the damage as much as possible. Once you accept that things go wrong and that when you’re in business for long enough it becomes inevitable, you can start to prepare for it.

They say that the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and that’s certainly true when it comes to companies. They also say that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but many brands would disagree. In fact, brands’ reputations have never been more important to them, especially because that’s often all there is to differentiate one brand from another.


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Responding to a backlash

The first thing to bear in mind is that speed is of the essence. If it takes you three days to respond to something, people are going to suspect – rightly or wrongly – that it’s an apology by committee, and that it’s not sincere. It can also be seen as a case of too little too late. This is especially true in the case of more severe PR disasters, such as when someone is injured or even killed.

You also need to make sure that your response is specific to the situation. It’s not enough to create a template response beforehand that you can roll out whenever you need it. People can sense these responses from a mile off, and it’s another easy way to come across as insincere. Instead of creating a template in advance, your time would be better spent establishing the sign-off process and creating a protocol so that in the event of a crisis, you can create a response that’s appropriate to the situation.

Brands also have a bad habit of trying to shift the blame or to avoid admitting responsibility. It’s certainly true that you shouldn’t apologise just for the sake of it, but if someone has made a mistake then you owe it to consumers to hold your hands up and admit it. It’s also a good idea to use reasonably informal language so that the brand sounds like a human being and not as though every word it says has to be routed through legal.




What’s Next?

Responding to backlashes and PR disasters is all about open and honest communication. In fact, many of these crises come about because of a lack of openness and honesty in the first place, which is why it’s a good idea to weave these attributes into your brand values and to make them a habit. If you do that, responding to backlashes should be easy because you’ll just be doing the same thing that you normally do. And consumers will respect you more because of it.

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Dane Cobain

Dane is a published author and freelance writer, editor and social media marketer. He has been featured in multiple major news outlets including The Guardian, The Metro and BBC online and radio.