Being prepared is best way to manage bad press | Chamber Corner

By Kim Voetberg | Apr 26, 2017

In recent weeks, one airline company took several hits when three separate negative news stories hit the headlines. While we will not restate those issues now, businesses can take what happened to this beleaguered company and leverage better habits within their own organizations.

For the most part, if negative business circumstances arise, it doesn’t make national news, which is not to say it won’t hit the social media platforms – and, frankly, that can be a killer.

To head those types of marketing nightmares away from their doors, here are a few things businesses can consider.

First: be prepared. The Boy Scouts have a great motto using those exact words. Have a conversation with your team and employees, and let them know that the company culture you are fostering is one that extends beyond sales and profit margins. The culture must include a quality of service that not only builds a customer base, but maintains it in the long haul.

Second: empower employees. A staff that has the tools and appropriate authority is a business’ most valuable asset. Owners and CEOs must rely on and trust that their front line is representing the company to its fullest advantage. To do that, they convey clear and concise expectations. They embolden and inspire employees by letting them develop projects or programs, with accountability measures in place. They reward success and allow for soft failure. All of these things encourage independence and trust, resulting in empowered employees.

Third: communication. If this strategy is not in place, then numbers one and two – above – will fail. From the entry-level employee to the top echelon in the organization, all must be communicating the same thing to the public. It does little good for a leadership team to be in their conference room crafting an official press release during a crisis if the receptionist in the lobby is giving a statement to the local news reporter.

At least once a year, an organization should review guidelines with all staff members about communication policies during a tough situation. Knowing that a business statement comes from only one source within the company actually offers employees a safety gap.

That said, the statement should be crafted carefully, and be released sooner rather than later. Allowing for a vacuum in the news cycle, one where speculation becomes fact, can be difficult for a business to tackle. To add to that, managing social media platforms that take on a life of their own is crucial and requires repeated and careful supervision.

What happened in the airline industry could happen anywhere. Were the company policies explained to the passenger prior to removal? Should the four affected passengers in question even have been allowed to board the plane? Could the company have offered a better compensation?

These questions are all in the “hindsight” category at this juncture. But, it does open the dialogue for other businesses watching this unfold to revisit, and perhaps correct and improve, how their organization would handle such a marketing and customer-related crisis.

Be proactive, anticipate, prepare. These are words that will guide you through a potential minefield should your business ever encounter a negative predicament.

Kim Voetberg is the marketing and communications director for the Mukilteo Chamber of Commerce. Call her at 425-347-1456 or write to her at For more on the Chamber of Commerce, go to

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