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From The Ashes – How To Handle Negative Media

Multi-award-winning PR specialist Annette Densham is considered the go-to for all things business storytelling, award submission writing.

Executive Contributor Annette Densham

The PR game can be ruthless. Building a profile and maintaining it is hard-yakka, especially through earned media. It's not a hop, skip and jump to the finish line, it takes time and a meticulous strategy for the best results. Unfortunately, in a split second, just one piece of negative media can derail your progress.

Image of Allison Rahman

Image: Allison Rahman

"I was painted as a villain by my own mother, on national Australian television it almost broke me".

Allison Rahman, entrepreneur, award finalist, founder at Pathways Support Services and other successful businesses is all too familiar with the impact of negative media. But she is also very well versed in turning it around, getting back on the horse, and taking the business-world by storm once again.


After spending fourteen years in the legal industry she took over the management of her step-father’s disability support service. The business that was facing legal backlash from her step father’s unethical business practices, she was able to transform this business into a multi-million dollar business in just two years.


In 2019, Allison made her unsolicited debut in A Current Affair. After a dispute with her mother who was gifted shares in their family business, the relationship between the pair grew sour. Allison found herself in a very public legal battle.


"I was publicly painted a villain by my own mother – it almost broke me", said Allison. "But despite the death threats, mental vulnerability, and trauma, I learned a lot about how to turn my profile around for the betterment of my businesses, and staff".

Don't give the story ammo – Strategies

No one likes the silent treatment but sometimes silence is golden. Allison explains that in certain situations, flippant retaliation can do more harm than good. "It took a lot of mental strength to avoid instinctively responding to misinformation and accusations", said Allison. "I had to assess how the media was negatively characterising me in the story, versus my mother. Jumping to a defence ultimately would've been viewed as an emotionally charged admission of guilt, and likely would've fueled the fire." She adds, "By assessing if the situation genuinely requires a response or if silence will let the noise fade over time, set the objective for how I was going to tackle it".


Allison adds, "Stay informed about the evolving conversations but avoid obsessing over negativity. Continue to assess your strategy, and pivot where necessary".

Regroup and breathe – Who is in your corner?

The beauty about shows such as A Current Affair is they have to chase you down to film before they can edit and air the show, this is a crucial time to get on top of it. I gave my staff and clients a heads up and "I addressed the show with my staff. Gave them the opportunity to ask questions, and reassured them that my goal was to rebuild from behind the scenes; That meant seeing who wanted to ride the wave".


Taking a moment to breathe can be easier said than done when you've worked incredibly hard to please people with your business solution, just to see it impacted by negative media. Allison said the best decision she made was to disengage, regroup and focus on the business.


"At first, you could say I went into hiding. But after taking the time out to reflect, I remembered that I had 80 staff members,50 clients, and their families relying on me to keep soldiering on", reflected Allison.


"Making sure your team is onboard is essential. It ensures communication is consistent and shows stakeholders the business focussed on moving forward. Staying focused on your long-term goals, your team can emerge from challenging situations stronger".


Protect your clients and staff – Transparency is key

Businesses wouldn't exist without their clients or customers. Allison stresses the importance of nurturing loyal stakeholder relationships first and foremost. "Don't neglect your loyal supporters. Pen a transparent email or newsletter acknowledging the published negative piece", advises Allison. "Take the opportunity to address pressing points but be factual – include supporting evidence", she adds, "Explain how/if the negative publicity could potentially affect them, and how, as a business you're going to move forward. Lastly, thank them for their understanding, welcome questions and encourage positive messages to counter the negativity".

Focus on your accomplishments not on negative media

As a business owner, you've more than likely leapt into survival-mode to overcome dire challenges. "When you've put your blood, sweat, and tears into a business – behind the exhaustion, and disappointment that things didn't go your way, going down without a fight isn't an option!", said Allison. "That doesn't necessarily mean going in all guns blazing; In my case, it meant drawing from the pain, turning it into motivation, and showing up for my people".


Allison highlighted the importance of being an active member of her community and network. "I worked extremely hard to build my personal profile as a versatile industry leader, and rebuild the reputation of the business. It included actively putting myself out there for networking opportunities, industry discussions, and working customer-facing roles to build lasting personal relationships with our clients and their families", said Allison. "These are the people who know you, respected you, and supported you. Gather and share good news stories, customer testimonials, and achievements to drown out negativity with a balanced perspective."


"Don't be afraid to seek professional help and advice. A publicist or crisis communication expert can take the overwhelm out of putting together a strategy to minimise the impact, and protect your reputation. It's important to also look after your own mental health. Some situations can be deeply traumatic. A professional counsellor or psychologist can provide valuable support during challenging times."


Annette Densham, Chief Storyteller Multi-award-winning PR specialist Annette Densham is considered the go-to for all things business storytelling, award submission writing, and assisting business leaders in establishing themselves as authorities in their field. She has shared her insights into storytelling, media, and business across Australia, UK, and the US speaking for Professional Speakers Association, Stevie Awards, Queensland Government, and many more. Three times winner of the Grand Stevie Award for Women in Business, gold Stevie International Business Award, and a finalist in Australian Small Business Champion awards, Annette audaciously challenges anyone in small business to cast aside modesty, embrace their genius and share their stories.



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