How to Put a Positive Spin on Negativity in PR

Nov 17, 2022

Re-framing negativity is challenging in any scenario. Even when you give rational thoughts as to why a situation should actually be viewed positively instead of negatively, you can still run up against a wall. This happens time and time again in the world of public relations, PR. You can craft beautifully written content to engage with your community and there could still be those who choose to tear down whatever you say. Or, you may be dealing with a crisis and need to figure out how to deal with the aftermath and communicate a positive image of your organization. All in all, spinning a positive story from a negative situation can be challenging but not impossible. Below are three strategies on how to put a positive spin on negativity in PR.

Respond to Negative Comments

It may seem easier to ignore negative comments, reviews or articles about your organization. However, responding to them in a timely manner will save you a worse headache later down the road. In Michael Podolsky’s article, “Negative Reviews: Why Neglecting To Respond Can Be A Costly Mistake,” at Forbes he discusses how having an open line of communication, even when the conversation starts out negatively, can improve your relationship with your target publics. The key to this is having people trained in dealing with customers and community members in a timely manner, says Podolsky. The more you let the review or comment sit, the worse the situation may become.

However, there are certain kinds of negative comments you should not engage with. Pamela Vaughan talks about this in her article, “How to Deal With Negative Comments on Social Media [+ Examples],” at HubSpot. Social media provides a significant opportunity for people to leave negative comments due to its open forum nature.

In Vaughn’s article, she discusses the four types of negative comments that can occur: customer complaints, trolling, spam or malicious comments and harassing or threatening comments. You typically should always respond to customer complaints, says Vaughn, so that you can improve the relationship with your publics. However, for the latter three areas, Vaughn recommends avoiding any kind of engagement. She also suggests having clear policies on content, such as a no profanity rule, and then you can report and block the responsible individual.

These strategies can be applied to other communication channels besides social media. Overall, you need to put your best foot forward and get ahead of the negativity. How you approach it will ultimately depend on the extent of the comments, reviews or articles.

Ask How You Can Help

In PR, if you are receiving negative feedback on company policies or are responding to a crisis, thinking about your response in a problem-solution frame of mind may be beneficial. In order to put a positive spin on negativity, you need to know how to fix the initial problem.

Vaughn suggests being apologetic and working to solve the problem with the customer. To do so, she recommends first responding to the public comment and then reaching out to the individual through a private channel. This way, you will show the individual that you care about their concern and are working to solve the problem.

Treat Negativity as Constructive Criticism

It can be all too easy to respond to negativity with anger and frustration. While it may be tempting to write back a snippy comment, in the end, you will only further the negativity. In order to put a positive spin on negativity, you need to treat it as constructive criticism. Of course, some negative content may blatantly be spam or inappropriate content that needs to be reported. You should not treat these situations as constructive criticism. However, for other comments, if you approach your response in this way, you will be able to help the customer and your company more effectively.

If you communicate with an individual and do not make any changes, that person will either comment again more harshly or give up on your organization entirely. To avoid this, take criticism to heart and turn it into something productive, especially if multiple people are upset about the same issue.

Negativity will always be difficult to manage in public relations. However, by following these three strategies, you will be able to put a positive spin on negativity.

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