A public relations fiasco will sometimes feel like the death knell for a company. However, for digital business, poor publicity can provide more of a boon than you’d expect. Digital-based cab company Uber provide excellent evidence of this. Despite blow after blow in the media, Uber made $7.4bn in revenue last year. How does a company absorb wide scale negative publicity and turn it into benefits – and how does digital business prosper even further?
When expectations are at rock bottom, your options are unrestricted. Outside of the digital sphere, Volkswagen showed this; the very green friendly $25bn electric car scheme did the trick, as did generous compensation. For SME, there’s lessons to be learned here; even a crisis can be turned into a positive.
Setting the tone
Despite being confined to a screen, digital business isn’t excepted from having a tone of voice. In fact, it’s more important than ever, and is referred to as brand voice. Behind the brand voice is an established science behind it, and it forms a key part of your PR approach. According to Contently, up to 61% of customers are minded more towards engaging with a company that has a positive tone. Your tone is elicited through all of the mediums you use, as a business, to communicate – whether that’s face-to-face, email, or standard webpages.
How, then, does tone translate to transforming bad PR? To return to Uber’s example, their fortunes noticeably increased once a conciliatory tone. Not every customer can be happy – even if your service is perfect, it’s likely there will at some point be an issue. Adopting a positive business voice regardless of outcomes, and regardless of the message you are delivering, will have a twofold benefit: one, it can turn the unhappy customer around and make them less likely to leave negative reviews, or, in some cases, they become the customer. Two, it can attract new customers to the company who are enthused by your manner.
Managing crisis solutions
All good plans are laid bare when crisis hits. For small businesses, this can be a raft of bad reviews. This is where PR really is crucial, as history has shown time and time again. The first step is to establish the threat – if the reviews are bogus, it can be beneficial to meet them with positivity and to continue showcasing your restaurant’s benefits. When the content is a legitimate, real cause for concern, the best option is honesty and gratuity. Another huge digital business that suffered from a PR scandal, Facebook, climbed back up the stock index following the adoption of a honest tone from their embattled CEO.
Examples of an honest and dedicated voice returning the business to prosperity are found through history. Take, for example, the 1994 Texaco racial discrimination lawsuit. This brought adverse attention from across the country, but with it the attention and expectation that that level of attention garners. The result was that Texaco were able to make honest and sweeping changes to their business, weighting continued productivity against the hit taken from settlement. In the modern day, take a look at the McDonalds Szechuan sauce fiasco last year; as a result, sales were generated and the business was associated positively with a new group of influencers associated with digital communities.
PR is applicable across all levels of business. From huge conglomerates to SME, it really is of benefit to closely consider the voice of your company and your response to disasters. Having a cogent strategy and the tools to implement it will ensure you make the best out of any bad situation.
Guest Author, Jenny Holt, is a former HR executive turned freelance writer, who now spends more time with her young family and ageing, but ever eager Labrador, Rover.