How to Effectively Handle Negative Publicity (So It Doesn’t Affect Your Recruiting)


After United Airlines forcibly removed a passenger from an overbooked flight in April, shares of the company dropped as much as 6.3 percent. When allegations of sexual harassment were made against Uber, #DeleteUber started trending and their CEO was eventually forced to resign.

Negative publicity not only has lasting consequences for your company, it can negatively affect your ability to recruit top talent. In fact, 71 percent of professionals in the US wouldn’t apply to a company experiencing negative press, according to a recent survey. And 61 percent of companies who reported experiencing negative publicity say that fewer job offers were accepted, fewer employee referrals were given, and the number of job applicants decreased as a result.

Negative publicity can be as simple as a bad Google review, or as big as a national news story. How can your company effectively handle negative publicity so your reputation stays intact and your recruiting efforts aren’t affected? Here are some tips:

Have a plan

Start by being proactive, ready to confront bad publicity head-on. Appoint someone on your team who will speak on behalf of the company in the event of negative publicity — HR, marketing or PR professionals are normally best suited for this task. Put procedures in place for how employees should respond. You could also draft some templated responses, though you will want to tailor them to fit each instance of negative publicity.

Own your mistakes

When you make a mistake, be honest about it and don’t try to cover it up. Most of the time, people are simply looking for a genuine apology. If your company is caught in a lie, or tries to sweep it under the rug, the problem will only get worse. Give a sincere apology when a mistake is made. The apology should sound human and not a canned, robotic response. Try your best to make things right with the angry customer by offering a refund or other perks.

Defend yourself if the accusations are false

We know that when you make a mistake, you should own it. But what if you did nothing wrong or the accusations against you are false? Defend your company. If your company is falsely accused of something, you should vigorously defend yourself while keeping your response professional and conciliatory. Use facts or point to your policies to back up your defense.

Hire a PR Firm

When bad publicity turns into a full-blown crisis, you need to hire a professional PR firm to handle the fallout. They are experts at responding appropriately to bad publicity, and it pays to have them on your side when everyone else is against you. Little things like negative online reviews don’t warrant this approach, but when your mistake goes viral, bring in the experts to help you set things straight.


When negative publicity hits your organization, remember these tips so you can handle it the right way.


Need help recruiting candidates after a PR disaster?

If you’ve been unlucky enough to experience negative publicity at your organization, you’re probably having a hard time attracting the best talent on the market. Morgan Hunter can help. Throughout our 30 years in business, we’ve built lasting relationships with some of the top talent in the Kansas City area. We are well versed in communicating the benefits of working for your company, no matter what challenges you may have recently experienced. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you hire the best, contact us today.