Everyone in the business of writing receives bad publicity from time to time.
Sometimes, it is just an individual bad-mouthing you for whatever they perceive. Walk on from petty individuals who are probably just jealous of what you have created.
Other times, however, you or your book will be castigated in public rightfully or wrongfully. Regardless, this is bad publicity you must address and address immediately. Your author brand can be negatively impacted for years if you don’t.
Social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is where you are most vulnerable today. A snarky remark can be written by a person who then just disappears. As with anything on the internet, comments seem to linger into eternity. Who knows who will see them and think badly of you?
Tips for Handling Bad Publicity
There are so many different ways that you can be affected by bad publicity, and each one of them will require a unique response. Bad publicity can bring out the worst in all of us, so try to keep your emotions in check and deal with the situation in a cool and calm manner. Don’t over-react regardless of how blatant the comments are. Remember that your first response is going to be the one people remember.
1. Just do nothing. If you believe that the comment or smear will die on its own, just leave this situation alone. Many times, you can actually make the situation worse by responding to some nutcase.
2. Contact the person or firm directly who has maligned you or your book. This is the tactic you should take if something inaccurate has been attributed to you. Present the facts and ask for a retraction and public correction of the matter. They won’t always do this, but by keeping records of their and your actions, you have documented your good faith efforts to rectify a wrong.
3. Apologize publicly on their forum if you have made a mistake. Be gracious and humble when doing this. Come off as the good guy who stumbled. This usually stops the bad publicity train in its tracks.
4. Try to charm any nay-sayers about you and your work. You are a wordsmith, so use them (sincerely) to bring these people to your side. Show them facts, figures, history, or anything else that might persuade them.
5. Worst-case scenario: issue a very public response, using a spokesman or PR firm to get your point across. Stand strong, if you are in the right.
How not to handle bad publicity
When people hide from their critics, that act implies that they are guilty as charged.
Recently, we saw the effects of this with some of our young Olympians. People perceive them as being guilty, for first, they told a story, then disappeared, then told a number of different versions of what happened to them while on the town. We aren’t quite sure if something did happen, but the smoke is there. Sadly, a negative perception will follow them all, at least for a while.
A better way to handle this? Correct the story or any misconceptions immediately and let the authorities figure things out. Rightly or wrongly, they have been judged in the press.
There are also people who just like to start trouble on the internet. These “internet trolls” can create a lot of heartburn for you. They say something nasty, and when you respond, they just keep the dialogue going. Recognize them for what they are and move on. They will soon find another victim to torment.
Be vigilant about your reputation and works. If someone should smear you, immediately consider how you should handle the situation.
This is not an easy position to be in, and I can guarantee you will be up nights chewing on it. No one likes to be criticized, and sometimes, those comments are not worth even bothering about. You do need to address bad publicity which is inaccurate and you need to do it as quickly as possible.
Hopefully, as a writer, you won’t ever have this problem. Realistically, you probably will sometime in your career.