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In business, bad press will happen. It's not a matter of if but when, be prepared. We hear it all the time, our customers have a voice, with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others, bad press can go viral, you better watch how you treat your customers, they're just a tweet away from telling the world! While all of that is true, the opposite is true as well. What do I mean by that?
As a business owner, you have access to the same tools that your customers do. You can create a video and post it on YouTube, write a post and publish it on your blog, even send out a tweet or create a status update. Sometimes all it takes is a moment to do these things, but they can have a tremendous impact on your customers and future customers. We all know that bad PR can be detrimental to your business, but it doesn't have to be if handled the right way. When tragedy strikes be open and honest, take the blame if it's yours to take, tell your side of the story and be genuine.
Recently, a dealership in Winston-Salem, Frank Myers Auto Maxx, was struck with a PR nightmare. To keep it brief the FTC contacted them, and a few other dealerships, about the verbiage used on a few YouTube videos. The verbiage? "We will pay off your trade no matter how much you owe."
The FTC said that it could be misleading and while nobody complained about the verbiage used, the FTC was being proactive in protecting the consumer. Well, that was a few months ago and while Tracy Myers, dealer principal of Frank Myers Auto Maxx, complied with the FTC by taking the videos down, as well as removing verbiage from all future ads, the local media painted a different story, after reading the Press Release the FTC issued on March the 12th, 2012.
Not being one to sit back and let the PR storm run it's coarse, Tracy Myers created a video telling his side of the story, you can see it here:
If you take a look at the second link above you will notice that the local news station mentioned something about a settlement, which, to me anyway, sounds like fines were levied. If you watch the video above you will see that was not the case, there were no fines, no settlements and no complaints.
So, instead of sitting back and just taking it, Tracy did the right thing by telling his side of the story. He did it in a very straight forward way, he didn't bash the FTC or the local news station. If he had taken a negative tone in his video I feel things would have been worse, much worse. Even for a beloved local business like Frank Myers Auto Maxx, it could have cost him business.
What can you learn from this? Be transparent. Be open and honest. Talk to the people that matter most, your customers, and tell your side of the story.