Negative PR is never good, but it can be especially devastating during your launch. If a disgruntled customer or business rival starts spreading harmful rumors about your business, "don't just react in a knee-jerk [way]," says Samantha DiGennaro, founder of DiGennaro Communications LLC, a PR and strategic communications agency. "Take a deep breath, take it all in, then come up with an informed plan of action."
Find out exactly what's being said and through what medium: e-mail, blogs and so on. Though it may be tempting to go "tit for tat" on a blog anonymously, it could backfire and cause even worse publicity.
Take a few days to formulate a response and, if possible, respond through the same medium. Being communicative sends the message that you have nothing to hide. Prepare three to five key messages, talk to influencers in your industry and enlist their help in spreading your positive company vibes, says DiGennaro. "It's a really good way to reverse negative impressions."
If you've received negative customer feedback, find out if there's some truth to it and how you can rectify the situation. "Is there something at the core you need to change?" asks Ryan Prucker, image specialist and president of advertising firm Imagelight Advertising & Production. "Balance listening and acting and staying firm on your own core values and beliefs."
The key to surviving negative press? Finalize your branding messages before you start your business. "Unless you know what you stand for and really have it mapped out," says Prucker, "it's easy for others to knock you off the block."