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How to Recover from a PR Blunder

Mistakes happen. Sometimes big, embarrassing mistakes happen. Just ask Paula Deen, Martha Stewart or United Airlines. Each of their brands took a major blow to their credibility after public relations nightmares. Instead of asking what were they thinking? you should ask yourself how did they recover? It pays to have a plan prepared in the unlikely event that you’re faced with a PR firestorm.

Acknowledge the error. Don’t ignore it, and don’t deny that it happened. People are smarter than that, and the last thing you need is to have your target market seeing you as untrustworthy. Accept what was done, apologize, and do your best to move forward. People will notice your transparency and eventually applaud you for it.

Fix it. There have been plenty of companies that have made public mistakes and have been able to correct them: Delta, Chipotle, Tylenol, to name a few. Some more serious than others – ranging from a lack of Twitter judgment to the death of customers. But the key to remember each of these brands have recovered because they were proactive.

When appropriate, have a sense of humor. If you can make people laugh, you are a few steps ahead of the competition. Keep it in good taste, though. If your attempt at humor is seen as insensitive, like the Kenneth Cole blunder in 2012, you could be throwing fuel on the fire, which brings us to:

Move in a new direction. Distance yourself from the bad decision. You’ve acknowledged you made the mistake and proactively tried to fix it. Don’t waste that effort by clinging to the path that led you here. Nip it in the bud. Show your audience that you’re making a genuine effort to leave the slip-up in the past.

Want to watch a company navigate this slippery slope in real time? Keep an eye on Uber. The ride-sharing giant is spinning its wheels and looking for the right road.