Recently a Texas-based medical equipment company got hammered into submission by the government for alleged Medicare fraud. Overbilling such huge numbers that the entire industry is undergoing more intense scrutiny.

But how would you feel if you were one of their competitors? Your books may be completely on the up and up, but will the general public have enough information to make the distinction? Can you see how something like this could end up painting your company with the same bright red “x”?

Avoiding a PR Crisis

Spillover or crossover negative PR is a very real issue when you work in an industry where trust is crucial and the companies are largely indistinguishable to consumers. For example, when one fast food joint is accused of using “pink slime” or substandard beef, all the others suffer from added suspicion.

5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian has some advice for those who may find themselves in this situation.

Brand yourself distinctly

In certain industries the same words are used in nearly every business name. Don’t do that. Come up with a distinct brand that can be easily differentiated from your competitors. For example, if your competitor is “The Widget Place” don’t name yourself “The Widget Store.” The average consumer will never be able to tell the difference.

Develop a public reputation for good business

In the PR game the best defense is generally a good offense. Filling the Internet and airwaves with distinct, memorable, positive information is without a doubt the best way to protect yourself from spillover negative PR.

Public Relations CrisisDon’t pile on

While it may be tempting to kick your competitor when it’s down, avoid this temptation. Here’s why. The average consumer will see you together and lump you together. After all, you are not the authority, not the rule keeper and not law enforcement. Don’t try to be. If asked, the best answer is to reinforce your own commitment to honesty, integrity, and good service. Don’t bag on the other guy. Pat yourself on the back.