It comes as no surprise that nearly every popular author faces backlash for their work at one point or another. Whether former fans are boycotting the sequel of a book, or Tweeting about how awful the movie adaptation is, there is a hate comment around every corner. A PR person’s task is to turn that threat into an opportunity, to get those haters on board, or simply keep them quiet. The audience doesn’t always receive the author’s message in the intended way. Sometimes it goes one step further than simply not understanding it. Sometimes it offends them. Many of us remember how upset people were by Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga. Many believed that Meyer portrayed the lead female character in an anti-feminist way, and did not like that she largely played the role of a victim throughout the entire series. This is one single example of an authors’ writing being scrutinized by the public, picked apart, put back together, and turned into a completely different story. When that happens, the best person to call is a public relations professional.
Jay Baer is an American marketing consultant, speaker, and author, and he understands how important public image is. He has released a book entitled “Hug Your Haters.” It demonstrates that ignorance is not always bliss, and that it actually does more harm than good to ignore negativity in hopes that it will go away. PR people have no choice but to come up with a strategy for damage control. The first call of action is to address the public’s perception. The severity of a crisis is not actually defined by what the issue is, but rather how people are reacting to it. It is important for a PR professional to listen to what the public is saying before making a decision. No matter how ludicrous the reason for their anger, it is still of vast importance to understand the root of that anger. Listening to the audience is the best way to start a conversation, and a good PR person knows that the public is more likely to listen after you have listened to them first.
Social media strategy
Every PR person knows that the worst thing they can do is make light of a situation that calls for a serious and direct response. If there’s a negative Tweet getting re-tweeted by hundreds of thousands of people, trying to brush it under the rug will not work. Not only is that single Tweet interfering with public opinion, it’s also shaping it. Responding with a joke for example can create more frustration, and cause the public to feel vindicated about their anger. “Damage happens when there is a delay in coming clean and stating the remedy,” says David Stoch, director of Meerkat PR. “Clean, swift and credible action can save brands from long-term PR damage. ‘Sorry’ means nothing, but timing and remedies do.”
When the author speaks up
Damage control isn’t just the PR professionals’ job. Sometimes they need some help from the author. Even a single statement can get the public to look at things from another perspective. For example, Stephenie Meyers used an appeal to emotion to achieve this: “Twilight has a passionate following and also a passionate hatred attached to it. It was very double sided. For all the good there was equal negative. And I feel like the negative is coming into play a lot here and it makes me really angry. Like when someone picks on your kid at school. Because this kid hasn’t done anything wrong. This kid is totally innocent.”
Re-building the image
The most important thing a company or business can do is practice transparency. Honesty is the key to repairing trust between speaker and listener. Credibility is a difficult thing to re-gain, but being upfront and open to discussion about the negative backlash is the best PR tactic.