It's been said that any publicity is good publicity, but is this really true? Surely there are occasions where sometimes the line really is crossed? For instance, KA Design recently faced backlash over its attempt to rebrand the swastika by using it in a clothing line – it's hard to say that the publicity that KA Design got from this was anything but bad. So the question becomes not is there such thing as bad publicity, but how can you salvage a bad situation and make it good?
Sometimes companies misjudge things: their audience, their product, their campaign itself. That's ok - they're only human, after all. But there comes a point where things go too far and a company messes up in a major way, such as Kenneth Cole in 2011, who posted an insensitive tweet about riots in Egypt in an attempt to get attention for their new spring collection. So, picture this; you're in charge of a big marketing campaign for a new product. Maybe your campaign includes a joke or a punchy tagline. It offends someone...or maybe a lot of people. Now what?
Apologise...but make sure it's sincere
An apology isn't a sign of weakness; it shows the public that you are aware of the seriousness of the situation, and are willing to make amends. The thing to remember is that your apology needs to be sincere, otherwise the public will see right through it and this will just make the situation worse. There are certain ways to ensure your apology sounds sincere. For example, it is a good idea to avoid deflecting the blame in your apology. Saying, 'I'm sorry, but it really wasn't my fault,' is hardly any better than just not apologising at all. Take ownership of your mistakes, and by doing so, you will show your audience that you can commit to doing better in the future.
It can be helpful to accompany your apology with a written statement, wherein you can outline how exactly you will do better in the future. This adds sincerity to your apology as it shows that you have given the incident, whatever it may be, a lot of thought, and are going to take steps to fix it.
Look to Kitchen Aid as an example, who, after an employee posted an offensive tweet about Barack Obama's grandmother, made a sincere apology, taking responsibility and outlining steps they would take to make things right.
Use it as a lesson
No one wants to be responsible for a bad marketing campaign, but it doesn't have to be all bad. You can use it as a lesson to inform future marketing campaigns, as it will show you what people don't like, and what you should avoid in the future. This is why you should listen to feedback from your typical consumers, even if it is negative; who better to teach you about your target audience than your actual target audience?
Keep all your employees up to date
hile it can be tempting to try and brush things under the carpet, it is important to keep your employees informed about the situation and the steps you are taking to deal with it. This can help your employees to know what to say if questioned about it and prevent them making things worse.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
It's ok to admit that you're out of your depth when it comes to a fixing a bad marketing campaign. But don't worry, because there are people who make it their job to tidy up messes like these; PR companies. They are pros at this sort of thing and if you are struggling to salvage the situation on your own, they can be highly useful in creating a positive image of you.
The main thing is to not just ignore the problem and hope it goes away on its own. That has never happened before and likely never will. If you face the problem head on maturely and responsibly, you will be able to salvage a bad situation and recover as quickly as possible.