Earlier this month, Connie Loizos of peHUB wrote a post about her recent conversation with Michael Buckley, a partner at the Brunswick Group, a corporate communications firm employed by Groupon. It started when Buckley contacted Loizos about her recent piece on Groupon, claiming it was “inaccurate” and “silly.” He disputed quotes by third-party sources and asserted she would find more favorable information about Groupon had she done better research. Buckley tipped her to a “leaked memo” by Groupon’s CEO, a big no-no as Groupon is in its pre-IPO quiet period, and ended it by asking Loizos to please call him the next time she plans to write “another nastigram” about his client.
It’s not uncommon for companies to feel frustration toward the media, if they believe inaccuracies or half-truths were published. However, this type of hasty response in light of unfavorable press coverage surely doesn’t make the article go away – and as it happened in this case, bad PR incited a follow-up article that painted Groupon in a far worse light than the original.
Reporters are only human and they sometimes make mistakes. It’s perfectly legitimate for a company to contact a reporter in order to correct a glaring inaccuracy, but there’s no benefit to insulting the person or questioning their journalistic integrity. Here are some tips on how to – and how not to – deal with unfavorable press coverage.
- PR should serve as a resource for the media, providing information they need to get the facts straight or steering them to outside resources that could be of use.
- Instead of blasting reporters for purportedly misquoting sources, work directly with third-party sources to clarify the company’s position.
- PR agencies with clients that are pre-IPO should be familiar and able to advise clients on how to remain in compliance.
In the “Groupon nastigram” case, inaccurately referencing what the reporter had written, and worse, misquoting his own client’s memo, PR failed to get the facts straight. This not only impedes the company’s ability to convey their message but it undermines the PR rep’s credibility.
- Think long term and strive to maintain and build a cordial relationship, particularly if the writer is someone that tracks the company or its sector. It’s better to invest in an ongoing relationship with a reporter than to burn bridges because of one negative article. If PR manages the relationship successfully, the reporter may write favorably about the company in the future.
- And if all else fails and the company is really truly convinced the reporter is ignorant, lazy, or biased, seek to cultivate relationships with other contacts at the publication, news site or blog.