5 Ways NOT to Handle Negative Press

Crisis Communications
how-handle-negative-press 18.05.13

Everyone from Facebook to Reddit, to the Washington Post and NY Daily News is talking about a Scottsdale, Arizona, restaurant, Amy’s Baking Company says Ronn Torossian 5WPR CEO.  However, this is a perfect case of how “bad PR” really can be BAD. There is a cliché in public relations agencies and that all publicity is good publicity. That’s not true.

After a particularly horrendous appearance on the television show, Kitchen Nightmares, the owners of Amy’s Baking Company were enticed into a social media war. The fight quickly got heated and spread across the social media spectrum. So epic was the subsequent PR train wreck that the story was picked up by media outlets from New York to Los Angeles.

How to NOT Handle Negative Press

Your good reputation is one of your most valuable assets when you own a business. That’s why getting bad press can be so distressing. Whether it’s an article in a newspaper or a review on a website, you have to think carefully before you respond. Your first instinct in this case may not be the best course of action. Let’s look at five of the very worst things you can do in response to negative publicity.

Without rehashing the gory details, here are five things that the owner’s of Amy’s did that Ronn Torossian, CEO of one of top public relations firm in NYC, says are exactly the WRONG way to handle negative PR.


Some people react to negative press by hiding, which is one of the worst things you can do if you are in business. Your success depends on getting good publicity and getting no attention is just as bad as getting negative attention. It’s natural that an attack might make you feel like shrinking away from any publicity, but you have to resist this impulse. Focus on looking for ways to generate good press, but remember that you do want to be in the public eye.

Both during the show and in the aftermath, the couple repeatedly chose to hide from the criticism and negative PR. They refused to open the restaurant, came in late to work, and kept the doors locked to all comers off and on for several days. You cannot resolve a public relations crisis by hiding from it. These situations do not resolve themselves and they do not just go away. 5W Public Relations understands the importance of dealing with a PR crisis head on.

Attack your allies

One way businesses sometimes handle negative publicity is to blame their employees for a mishap. This is a counterproductive strategy for a couple of reasons. First of all, you are responsible for who you hire, so this does not get you off the hook. Secondly, it creates poor morale within the organization if people know you are going to abandon them the first chance you get. People who work for you are your allies and essential to your success. It’s better to portray a united front and, when necessary, take responsibility for any mistakes. Blaming underlings just makes you look petty and irresponsible.

During the filming of the show, things got really tense in both the restaurant “house” and the kitchen. Amy Bouzaglo was increasingly flustered by the negative commentary. She chose to take it out on her kitchen staff. Meanwhile, Samy was in the “house” yelling at customers. Both of these actions are toxic to good business. Top public relations agencies council clients to recognize employees and customers as chief allies in the quest to build a profitable business. They are working “with” you for different reasons, but are both vital to success.

Feed the trolls

Sometimes negative publicity is completely unfair and is started by internet trolls. These may be just people looking to stir things up. In some cases, an underhanded competitor may even be responsible. Either way, don’t fall into the trap of engaging trolls in endless arguments. It’s one thing to respond to legitimate issues. However, if you’re receiving personal attacks or baseless accusations, it’s better to show some restraint. If this type of attack is occurring on your blog or social media sites, you can delete the offending parties.
The absolute worst mistake the couple made in this entire fiasco was to attempt to argue with the Internet. One person’s time is very finite compared to the nearly infinite potential time for Internet trolls and naysayers to attack you. Engaging these people only encourages the vicious behavior. While the negativity can be hurtful, it is preferable to let these attacks roll off your back. The Bouzaglos chose to hurl profanity-laden threats and diatribes at anonymous Facebook and Reddit users. Foolish.

Refuse to speak to the press

This is similar to hiding, as it ends up reducing your public exposure. You definitely want media coverage, so don’t let a certain amount of negative press make you avoid the press completely. While you may be frustrated with a writer or reporter’s seeming inability to get the facts straight, you should take a deep breath and explain things as clearly as possible. Avoiding the media will just allow your competitors to dominate the spotlight.

Some people are compulsive looky-lous. They just can’t help it. When news crews showed up to interview the couple after the horrible TV episode aired, curious bystanders stopped to listen in. Instead of speaking with the press – their only salvation at this point – the Bouzagloses screamed and threatened these people just walking by their shop. If you are trying to make a bad situation worse, that’s an ideal way.

Invent an obviously implausible cover story

If you made a mistake, it’s better to admit it than to come up with an excuse that no one is going to believe. If the negative publicity has some basis, respond to it in a rational manner and explain how you are taking steps to ensure it won’t happen again. If it’s not justified, then explain this as calmly as possible. Making up stories or excuses, though, will only destroy your credibility.

Finally, when challenged by the news media to explain the profanity-laden diatribes on Facebook and Reddit, the couple stated that their Facebook account had been hacked. While this is arguably possible, it is not really plausible. Even if true, no one believes it.

The owners of Amy’s Baking Company have made their own bed. They need no help. But their story does serve as a cautionary tale in the evolving social media PR culture. For more information on utilized by top pr agencies click here.

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