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As the old saying goes, “There is no such thing as bad PR.” While that may
be the case for embattled Miss California Carrie Prejean, it’s not the case for
solution providers and small businesses.

In the case of Miss California,
Prejean first started catching flak for stating her belief in the traditional
definition of marriage. Controversy erupted when racy photos of the beauty
queen surfaced, which could have cost her, her crown. Donald Trump, owner of
the Miss USA pageant, said he believes in second chances and will allow Prejean
to keep her title.

While this is great news for Prejean, controversy and poor user experience
don’t always bode well for solution providers. The slightest bit of bad
publicity, especially in this age of instant public blogs and viral social
networks, can be enough to cost a business its reputation and, consequently,
its financial viability.

Jerry Grasso, a long-time public relations executive and current vice
president of communications at Lexmark International, offers solution providers
these insights for dealing with negative public relations.

Honesty Always
It is easier to start off honest and just admit your mistake. You posed for
pictures before you knew it was bad. You took drugs before they were illegal.
Whatever the case may be, just fess up and let the audience know you are honest
and have remorse. They most likely will not let you off the hook, but this is
the best place to start.

You Cannot Turn Lead into Gold
If you have done something that causes you to lose your tiara or a chance in
the baseball hall of fame, you cannot spin the story from lead into gold. You
must accept that some actions cannot be undone and you must accept the
consequences. If you continue to sell a story that is not true (see Rule 1),
you will continue to lose credibility with your audience.

Remember Your Audience
When we are in crisis mode, it is easy to forget who our target audience is.
You may be interviewing with your local paper and not love the reporter. This
reporter though will be responsible for the tone of your message as presented
in their publication. Consider whom you are talking with and whom you want to
reach with your message.

Grasso has a laminated sheet with his 12 golden rules of PR, lessons he
learned from his first 10 years in public relations and communications. Always
keep a communications plan prepared and outline your plans for crisis
communications. When the heat is on, cooler heads prevail. It’s very important
for your small business to have an expert on your side. Contracting a
communications professional can assist you in getting out your message without
looking defensive or one sided in the presentation.

It was a good week for Miss California
and the Miss USA pageant. They have taken an event that normally loses steam 24
hours later and dragged it out to two solid weeks of keeping their names in
front of the press. While they had teams of professionals ready to assist, your
business can do the same with planning and careful execution.