shutterstock_148116878Always be prepared for a media crisis. Unexpected and very bad things can happen to any business, and spas are no exception. Assuming you don’t bring them on yourself, you can’t always keep them from happening—but you can control how you respond. Have a crisis plan in place so you can refer to it in a hurry. Without one, you could fumble under the pressure, doing swift and severe damage to your brand image.

A media mishap does not need to mean the demise of your brand—as long as you know what to do when one occurs. There’s not much you can do about a bad review aside from generating some good publicity to counteract it and, of course, proving the reviewer wrong with each and every customer who comes in your door. But when things go really terribly—say a product bought at your store or a particular treatment caused a serious illness in a customer—you need to plan how you’ll react.

Your response must come from top management and should be immediate and truthful. Consumers will want to hear from the spa owner or manager, not some young press secretary or low-level employee. Take control of the dialogue. During a crisis, no news from you is bad news in the eyes of consumers. Ignoring a problem does not make it go away; it makes it worse. The sooner you respond, the better. Clarify your position early on, and consumers won’t think you’re the nameless, faceless, heartless culprit you’ll be painted as if you don’t. Take action to make things better. Say you’re sorry—which you are—and offer compensation. Most importantly, show empathy.

When you (or your representative) are on camera or being quoted, stick to what you want to say and nothing more. Know what points you want to get across and focus interviews on these points as much as possible. Don’t let words be put in your mouth by reporters—but be careful to maintain your composure and a positive attitude as you redirect the discussion to where you want it to go. If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it, and then say exactly when you’ll be able to provide the answer in the future. Lying is unacceptable and will inevitably only get you into deeper trouble.

With solid crisis management, bad press can be turned into good press—or at least leave you where it found you. Never underestimate consumers’ ability to discern honesty; they’ll be willing to forgive you your bad press if you give them the opportunity by showing your sincere desire to set things right.