Not All Press is Good Press: How to Protect Your Brand When You Receive Bad Publicity from Customers

You can work to provide the best customer experience imaginable – sealing a rainbow and a hug with your perfect product in its perfect packaging – and you will still have the occasional unhappy customer.  Sometimes, the issue is simply bad timing . . . a perfect storm in your customer’s life that culminates with your product underperforming in some perceived way (that’s more often a result of the person’s current frame of mind than actual underperformance).  Sometimes, the fit isn’t a good one; the product or service isn’t what the individual expected (possibly even because he or she didn’t pay enough attention to the sales pitch or product specs prior to purchase).  Regardless, one day you will be on the receiving end of bad publicity from an unhappy customer, and you’ll want to know the best way to handle the situation.  Below are some different approaches with the selection of the right one dependent upon the specific circumstances of the bad press.

Sometimes, no response is the best response.

I have had a really hard time with this one in the past.  It’s just so against my nature to not share my point of view.  However, this approach can be the right choice when . . .

  1. The customer discredits themself in the process . . . either by sounding a little crazy, exhibiting below average intelligence, or complaining about something that clearly isn’t the product’s fault.  In other words, if your average person would read the quote, review, or feedback from the individual and not be convinced (for whatever reason) that your product was at fault, then just walk away.  Your work is done.  No input needed.


    I found this gem on Bored Panda as part of 41 Of The Most Hilarious Amazon Reviews Ever to beautifully illustrate my point.


    Here’s another great one from The Best Social entitled These 16 Amazon Reviews Are As Funny As They Are Unhelpful.
  2. You have the potential to do more harm than good.  Whenever you receive bad publicity, take a step back and try to look at the big picture.  Does this negative press have the potential to negatively affect sales?  If so, by how much?  For how long?  If the potential fallout is minimal, walk away.  Count your losses and call it a day.  Another important variable . . . how angry does this customer seem to be?  When helping my son with his science homework recently, I was reminded by Newton that all actions have an equal and opposite reaction.  If you counter your opposition, the chance always exists that they will find another way to strike back (especially if you’re dealing with one of those customers in the midst of that perfect storm in their life).

Turn an unhappy customer into a happy one.

This route is my favorite.  When you see a problem that has a solution, strive for resolution.  Regardless of whether you saw the complaint on facebook, on yelp, or in your local newspaper, the approach is largely the same.  Reach out to the customer, let the person know you saw their issue, apologize for the misunderstanding (usually one exists in these situations), and try to remedy the problem.  Upon reaching happy conclusion, I never ask for the individual to undo their negative press.  Simply apologize, fix the problem, and thank the person for giving you the opportunity to do so.  The majority of the time, the person will not only undo the negative, he or she will rave about your customer service.  However, do be prepared for the small minority of people who have had their issue resolved and do not undo their bad publicity.  In those cases, you then need to decide whether the potential fallout is bad enough that you need to take further action.  If so, read on.

Mitigate the damage.

Sometimes, your customer’s problem is unsolvable (or he/she is unmoved by your solution) AND the associated publicity does have the potential to substantially impact your business.  In those cases, you need to act, BUT always approach these situations with great caution.  If you choose to respond by providing a quote to the reporter doing the story or as a direct response in a public venue (facebook, yelp or other review web site, your product web page, etc.), be sure to do the following:

  1. First and foremost, be respectful.  Do not speak at all negatively about the person or situation.  If you do, readers will empathize with the customer.  They will picture buying your product, having a problem, and being spoken to in that same negative manner.
  2. Apologize . . . carefully.  Despite whether you feel you’re at fault, your customer feels he or she has been wronged in some way.  You have a public victim.  That said, you’re probably not looking to claim full culpability either, so choose your words carefully.  Apologize: for the misunderstanding, for the terrible experience that’s been endured, etc.  Don’t say, “I apologize that my product was the cause of a terrible experience for you.”  The difference is subtle but important.
  3. Address the situation directly.  This is the time to share your side of things.  Nicely explain the issue from your perspective.  Your goal is for a potential customer to hear both sides and agree with you . . . or at least feel your fault is limited enough that they would still patronize your business.  I dug up two examples for you of 1-star reviews I’ve received that I felt warranted a response.




  4. Focus on increasing your positive publicity.  Work to counteract the negative message that was conveyed.  For example, if a customer’s complaint of faulty workmanship on her home got media attention, try to get press coverage on all the beautiful work your company has done.  That could mean applying for some recognition in your field (annual awards, etc.), which could then be promoted.  Another route would be to introduce a new guarantee on your workmanship, which could be publicized.  If you’ve done a job that was unique or special in some way, you could try to pitch the story to a reporter as a feature.  In my line of work, when a product gets a negative review that needs to be addressed, I send messages to other customers who have purchased the same product, asking if they would be willing to share their experience.  During this pandemic (while sales were at their worst for me), I needed to take this step.  Here was my message:

Hi there.  I would like to personally thank you once again for your purchase.  During these hard times in particular, the fact that you are purchasing products from small businesses means so much — to me and my family.  So please accept my sincerest thanks.

An additional step that is very meaningful is leaving a review.  IF you have the time available AND you were happy with your purchase, I would greatly appreciate you taking a few minutes to write a positive review for the product.  I think people often don’t realize how important an impact their voice can have — especially for a small business.

If you didn’t end up loving your purchase, please respond to this message and let me know.  I can either help you troubleshoot or I can personalize your product for you (if applicable), and I can work to improve the product for future customers.


Thank you!!!     


In conclusion, I sincerely hope you never have negative press.  (For a good article on proactive prevention, check out Great Customer Service is a Zero Cost Strategy by Business Management Blog.)  For the unfortunate though likely day that you do encounter an unhappy (and vocal) customer, I hope this article makes you feel a little more prepared.  Have any questions or comments?  We’d love to hear from you.  Scroll down to “Leave a Reply.”

Other Resources

Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels

A seemingly infinite number of resources exist on branding, and a similarly large number of small business resources exist. Once you narrow in your search on resources for small business branding (and of course eliminate those who want to offer you that service in exchange for a fee), a much, much smaller pool exists. Well, we scoured the Internet for some of the most valuable of these resources for fellow small business brand builders and compiled the best of the best for you below . . . .

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Pexels – “The world’s first inclusive free stock photo & video library”

While you need to attribute credit to the photographer (as you can see in the example pictured above), you get access to a really impressive selection of *free* high-resolution stock photography. The images can be used on your web site, in advertisements, flyers, etc. Pexels is absolutely a must-have in your bookmarks.

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GoDaddy Garage > Guide to Building a Brand – “Your brand is a high-speed emotional shortcut to the promise you make to the world.”

This blog is right up our alley! The articles discuss branding from the perspective of small businesses and even provide DIY tips in some areas. If you view the “Articles by Topic,” you’ll see they’re conveniently categorized into the following sections: “Find Your Niche,” “Dream It,” “Create It,” “Grow It,” and “Manage It.”

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Google Fonts – “Making the web more beautiful, fast, and open through great typography.”

About a thousand *free* fonts are available, and they’re presented in a wonderfully searchable format (it is google after all).  You’re able to type in your sample text, select the size you want to preview, and choose your desired font characteristic(s), and your search results will populate accordingly. According to google, “You can use [the fonts] freely in your products & projects – print or digital, commercial or otherwise.”

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Inkspace – “Draw Freely.”

We use the vector and graphics editor, CorelDraw.  While the suite is powerful and much cheaper than your standard graphics package, the cost is still pretty steep in the $500 ballpark.  I read a few articles on free vector-editing programs, found Inkscape (https://inkscape.org/) to be highly recommended, and gave it a go.  The free program seems to have all the features needed to get the job done.  (And, they make a number of tutorials available, including one on the basic tools:  https://inkscape.org/en/doc/tutorials/basic/tutorial-basic.html.)

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AmEx Blog > Branding – “Hone your presence, online and off. Carve out a niche that customers and clients respond to, and help build a seamless brand, from the color of your logo to the personality of your social posts.”

AmEx has a vastly extensive blog for small businesses. While Branding is only one section within, the quantity of information could easily qualify as a blog of its own. While the section could benefit from some organization, dozens upon dozens of articles as well as videos offer valuable branding insights for small businesses.

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Microsoft Word Templates

While Microsoft dedicates the prime real estate of this page to promoting their “premium” content, hundreds of free options are available. If you browse by category, you’ll see brochures, business cards, flyers, invoices, newsletters, and more. While you’ll certainly want to customize any template with your business’s brand elements, these “off-the-shelf” options often make a great starting point and save you a lot of time and effort.

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The Noun Project – “Over 2 Million curated icons, created by a global community”

Ever wondered where to go for icons that could be used as part of your brand identity or marketing materials for a very minimal cost?  A number of options exist, but I like https://thenounproject.com/.  They have a large selection and charge nominal, one-time fees per icon.  (We obtained the hammer for our logo from this source for $2.99.)

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DIY Marketers – “An Online Magazine for Overwhelmed Small Business Owners on a Budget”

The author of the blog shares her origin story:

Back in 2008 I got a call from MSNBC asking me to be a part of a pilot program they were doing for entrepreneurs. The idea was to bring a TV crew to “our offices” and see how we were able to create all this amazing content and to teach another small business owner how they can market themselves on a budget. I was sorry to tell them that the Ivana Taylor empire ran from my living room with my 3-person staff of Me, Myself and I. The first thing they asked me was how I was able to do so much on a budget — and that’s when DIYMarketers was born.

For me, this story exemplifies all we can accomplish in the world of DIY, investing money from our businesses in growth instead of hiring others to execute the tasks we can accomplish ourselves. And the blog itself doesn’t disappoint. While the design is a little overwhelming, you’ll find oodles of insight and “how-to’s.”

How to Easily Create Business Letterhead in Microsoft Word (Video Tutorial)

In an earlier post, we described how easy creating your own business letterhead can be in Microsoft Word.  Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so a video must be worth . . . a whole lot of words!

We really wanted to be able to show how easy some of our DIYs really are, and how better to do that than in live action?  (The task of creating letterhead is done in about two minutes.) 

So welcome to our first video . . . .  Hope you enjoy it!  If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you!  Just scroll down to the comments section at the bottom of this page.

Customer Service During Crises

Photo by picjumbo.com from Pexels

People are feeling overextended, underprepared, angry, sad, stressed, and scared.  Your customers, your staff (if you have one), you, and I are all likely experiencing some sense of these heightened emotions.  The extent to which these feelings exist in each person vary greatly as do their specific circumstances.  Generally speaking though, our “fight or flight” survival instincts (the body’s natural response to stressful stimuli) are lingering closer to the surface than usual. 

During times of crisis, you see evidence of this all around you:  the individual yelling at the cashier for the store’s “1 per person” limit; the beeping and yelling over that sought-after parking spot; and even an increased number of heated social media discussions that seem to have the voltage turned up a bit.  The beneficiaries of my stress . . . ?  These days, I find myself triggered by my children’s complaints of boredom (I suddenly channel my grandmother: “Be thankful you’ve got nothing to do, or I’ll give you something to do!”).  And God bless the telemarketer that calls my phone this month.

So what does all this have to do with your business’s customer service?  Chances are, your customers will have less patience than usual.  The person (or people) who works with your customers (even if that person is you) will probably have less patience than usual.  “The perfect storm.”  Unfortunately, any intense interactions will likely not be forgotten once the storm has calmed.  As illustrated by the info-graphic below, a disgruntled customer will process their feelings in one (or more) of a number of predictable and unfortunate ways. 

(Not topping the list of “What Happens After Poor Customer Experience”:
Customer will acknowledge that everyone is under a lot of stress and give the company the benefit of the doubt.)

How can we prevent ourselves from alienating customers during hard times?  Recognition is an extremely important first step.  One parenting mantra often repeated is, “Your child isn’t giving you a hard time; your child is having a hard time.”  This twist on perspective can easily apply to individuals of all ages who are having a hard time.  Before answering a phone call or responding to an email, take a moment to remember all the potential scenarios that people (including you) are dealing with right now:  serious health issues among family or close friends, loss of income and trouble paying bills, homeschooling children – in many cases – while working from home, etc.  Acknowledge all the weight that you and everyone else is carrying around.  Taking that moment will make a world of difference, I promise.

Going one step further, you may even want to solidify some more relaxed (short-term) customer service policies.  Formalizing a revised posture is particularly beneficial if you have employees that will be working with your customers during this time.  Having finite rules (that have been relaxed) will help your staff navigate this confusing landscape.

Good luck.  Stay safe.

If you have any questions or comments on this topic, we’d love to hear from you.  Scroll down to the comments section at the bottom of this page. 

A “Legal-Approved” Free Collection of Social Media Icons

When looking to promote your social media presence, you want to include logos for each outlet, but you don’t want to be on the receiving end of legal issues with Facebook or Instagram.  So we’ve done the legwork for you and compiled the logos each social media outlet wants you to use along with the rules for each.  If you had a legal department, their ‘approved’ rubber stamp would be inked up and ready!

Facebook

Brand Resources – https://en.facebookbrand.com/facebookapp/

  • Use the “f” logo to promote your business’s presence on Facebook.
  • The color of the icon can either be facebook blue or white.
  • Include a call to action and link with the logo.
  • When using along with other icons, ensure they are all equal in size with adequate space in between each and maintain the shape and proportions of the “f” logo.
  • Don’t change the logo in any way.
  • Don’t make the logo the most prominent feature of your piece.

Instagram

Icon (and instructions) – https://en.instagram-brand.com/assets/icons

  • Use the Instagram glyph (or outline) in black or white (though you can place on a pink background when showing with other social media icons in their brand colors).
  • Use the logo with a call to action unless including in a lineup with other social media icons.
  • The glyph should be surrounded with clear space – specifically 50% of the glyph’s size – on all sides.
  • Make the glyph no smaller than 29×29 pixels.

Twitter

Brand Resources – https://about.twitter.com/en_us/company/brand-resources.html

  • While Twitter prefers you use their icon free of any container, they provide versions with the icon enclosed in a square, a square with rounded corners, and a circle.
  • When pairing the logo with an account name or hashtag, scale the text to 100% of the logo’s height.
  • Only use the logo in Twitter blue or white.
  • Don’t change the logo in any way.
  • Don’t surround the logo with other creatures or accessories.
  • The empty space around the logo should be at least 150% of the logo’s width.
  • Make sure the logo is at least 32 pixels wide.

YouTube

Brand Resources – https://www.youtube.com/about/brand-resources/#logos-icons-colors

  • Surround the icon with free space of at least 50% of the icon’s width. 
  • The icon should be a minimum of 24dp in height (digitally) and .125 in (printed).
  • Don’t change the logo in any way.
  • Only use the icon in your social media assets when linked to a YouTube channel.

Snapchat

Snap Kit Design Guidelines – https://docs.snapchat.com/docs/design-guidelines/

  • Use the Snapchat app icon (shown above) along with other apps. (Otherwise, use the Ghost logo.)
  • The icon should be a minimum of 18 px (digitally) and .25 in (printed).
  • The empty space around the logo should be at least 150% of the logo’s size.
  • Don’t change the logo in any way.

LinkedIn

Brand Guidelines/Downloads – https://brand.linkedin.com/downloads

  • Only use the logo in LinkedIn blue, all white, or all black.
  • Make sure adequate space surrounds the logo.
  • Don’t change the logo in any way.
  • The “in” should be a minimum of 32 px (digitally) and .25 in (printed).  The ® symbol should be clearly visible.

Pinterest

Brand Guidelines – https://business.pinterest.com/en/pinterest-brand-guidelines

  • Use the Pinterest badge (above) and not the wordmark.
  • Always include a call to action and your Pinterest URL with the logo.
  • The logo height should be proportionate to the call to action text. 

We hope this guide simplifies the use of social media logos for you.  However, please keep in mind that this collection does not replace the full guidelines provided by each social media outlet, and those should be reviewed in full as well. 

If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you!  Post in the comments section below.

Creating a ‘Follow Us on Social Media’ Sign in Microsoft Word

You’ve created your social media pages to reinforce and promote your brand, and you regularly dedicate your time to adding content.  Now, you want to be sure you’re taking every opportunity to properly promote your social media presence.  If your small business has a physical location (office, retail store, etc.), hanging a sign in a high-traffic area is a great option and relatively quick and easy.

I’ll show you the steps to create such sign in Microsoft Word.

1. Open Word, create a new blank document, and insert a rectangle.  (When your cursor turns into a plus sign, you’re able to draw your shape.

By default, mine is blue.  Right click the rectangle and select More Layout Options. 

Set the properties to . . .

  • Size: 10” in Height and 8” in Width
  • Text Wrapping: Behind Text
  • Position:
    • Horizontal – Absolute Position of .25” ‘to the right of’: Page
    • Vertical – Absolute Position of .5” ‘to the right of’: Page

Set the Fill to No Fill and the Line to a Solid Line, Black Color, and .5 pt Width, choosing the Dash Type selection shown below.

2. Click inside the rectangle and type “Follow Us on Social Media”.  Set the font to one or more choices that work as your heading and size to appropriately fill the space.  Set the Alignment to Centered.  I went with the font Candelion Regular in all lowercase at size 160 for “follow us” and (on the next line) Calibri in all caps at size 25 and added a space between each letter.

3. Next, decide which review platforms you would like to feature.  We are currently active on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest and will be highlighting those.  Then, go to Google to find logos.  Most social media outlets will have a corporate page that makes their logo available to the public along with instructions for proper usage.  For example, Facebook has a Brand Resources page easily found when searching “facebook logo” on Google.

As you find the appropriate source for each social media outlet, save the logos to your desktop.

4. Press enter within your document to advance to the next line space and then insert each of your saved logos (from the menu at top, press the Insert tab, and choose Picture) in the order you want them to appear on your sign. 

Inserting each of mine took me to the bottom of a second page.  So, the first step in adjusting sizing is to crop any excess space from the logos.  (As you can see above, the outline of the Pinterest image is directly around the icon, so no need to crop that one.)  That’s not the case for LinkedIn . . .

To crop, click Picture Tools (at the very top of the screen), click the Crop icon (at top right), drag the outer edges of the box tight around the logo, and press enter.  Once all the logos are cropped as needed, try to match their size to about and 1.4” in height.  (This will ensure you have adequate room for text.)  To do so, click Picture Tools again and enter a height at top right.

Repeat for the other icons.

5.  Click in the space after your first icon, press enter to add a line space, and type your profile name/URL for that platform; repeat for your subsequent logos.  This process once again took me onto a second page.

Therefore, decrease the font size as needed.  I went with size 20.

And then adjust the spacing a little for each line of text (so you have additional room between each social media outlet).

And you’re done!

6. Save your file, print, cut (on the dotted line, which is 8×10”), and frame!

A Note About Fonts and Colors:
While the instructions described above will achieve the simple and modern design pictured, you can (and should) customize the look for your business. If you’ve been brand building from the start, you already have a Style Guide in place, and everything you create for your business should reflect the guidelines you’ve set for your logo usage, fonts, and colors. If you’re new to branding, be sure to review our story on The Role of a Brand Style Guide.

Happy designing!