in-the-mix-7We’ve all been there. A mistake is made with our name attached to it. The damage may have been done by an email with a typo, a controversial community event, a disgruntled employee turned rogue online, or simple miscommunication.   For-profit and non-profit organizations are targets of scrutiny more than ever over these things. We live in a multimedia culture of sharing, and unfortunately, target audiences are sometimes manipulated by influencers with an agenda.  Despite the reality that we can’t go back in time to prevent mistakes, with direct marketing we have the power to turn negative press around.

Hence, the birth of “Mission Positive.”

“Mission Positive” is my guide to combatting damaging events with positive experiences.

According to Understanding Customers, twelve positive experiences are necessary to negate one unresolved negative experience.  Here are some tips on how to create positive experiences with your target audience.

  1. Be genuine. A “canned” response is the last thing you want to provide. We connect with humans, not automated responses. No matter how ugly the situation is, you need to maintain the relationship with your audience and address negative issues with genuineness.
  1. Look and listen Put your investigator’s hat on and look at facts.  No matter how painful, look online, through printed publications, and ask constituents. Listen for facts and false information in conversations, on the phone, and in the national news to understand what information needs to be addressed.
  1. Be proactive, not reactive.Fight or flight and freaking out are instinctual responses, but they just serve to rattle you and your team.  Refer to tip number two and use hard facts to develop a clear communication plan before and after a mistake occurs. Also make sure you have addressed the issue with the team creating the product, service, or cause, so that your performance aligns with set communication expectations.
  1. Stay positive. It’s incredible how contagious negative energy is. Here is the good news: positive energy is negativity’s kryptonite because it is just as contagious. Positive energy will spread among your team in a stressful time, which will translate into positivity in communications with your target audience.
  1. Be transparent.  But not too transparent! Filtering the truth is always best. Leave out the gory details to keep the trust of those with whom we already have an existing relationship.
  1. Respond. I’m sure you’re thinking, “DUH!” but you’d be surprised at how many organizations never respond to negative incidents. Response timing is key because you don’t want to take so long to respond that the public will assume you are scrambling behind closed doors for an answer, but you also don’t want to be hasty and cause more damage. You will want to use the most calm and rational person in your organization, regardless of job title, to help tailor the response.
  1. Manage social media. This is where the true social media test comes in. I’ve witnessed some Fortune 500 companies cornered by negative publicity on social media, and they do the worst thing imaginable – delete comments. The second worst is a canned response. Unless comments or tweets are made by trolls, or are irrelevant to the situation, you should always respond genuinely and honestly to them. Remember that calm and rational person I mentioned in number six? That’s also who you want to handle any negative social media publicity.
  1. Send a personalized note.  We deal with schools and nonprofit organizations whose donors respond well to written letters and emails from the heart of the organization – whether it’s the President, CEO, or Associate Director – because that is who they trust most. Sending personalized letters and emails successfully maintains donors’ sense of personal connection with the organization.
  1. Make calls. If the mistake affects a specific group of people you have relationships with, a phone call might work best. Calls can’t be made to everyone, but using data you can determine a “red alert” group you must notify anytime a mistake is made. You never know, this VIP group may become your “feet on the street” and set the story straight with the remaining target audience.
  1. Keep communications for future.  Maintain a record of your “Mission Positive” strategies to create a foundation for future use, should the need arise again. By recording the most effective strategies you used, you will be well prepared to embark on another “Mission Positive,” and turn negativity around with its kryptonite, positive experiences.