The saying "all publicity is good publicity" isn't always true. Some people say that good news travels fast, but I'd bet that bad news travels faster. If unfortunate mistakes unfold or rumors start swirling around your band that have the potential to tarnish your image or reputation, are you prepared to handle it effectively?
Crisis management isn't something that exists for just big-league artists – it's something that smaller DIY artists must take very seriously, too. Inspired by business consultant and USC professor Ira Kalb, along with personal experience and hours of academic research, the practical crisis management strategies below could help save your band.
How should you handle unflattering rumors?
A rumor is information (usually unflattering and unsubstantiated) that is spread from one person to the next. A rumor can pop up anywhere and at any time, and it must be immediately handled by you and your team. When a damaging rumor circulates, here's what you can do:
- Don't pretend the rumor doesn't exist, specifically when the rumor is extremely damaging to your reputation and has the potential to gain widespread traction with the general public. This can give the upper hand to the person spreading the rumor and make you look suspicious. Silence is usually not a solution, nor is responding with "no comment."
- Promote the opposite of the rumor thoroughly, but without directly repeating, and thus spreading, the rumor. For instance, should a rumor state that the donation money you collected at a charity gig were used for other means, you might release a statement that focuses entirely on how well the charity benefited from your contribution, provides verifiable evidence to back up your statement, and includes a supporting quote from the charity's director or a benefactor.
- If you're able to identify the source of the rumor, address the issue head on. Demand an immediate retraction and public apology for the careless reporting. In extreme cases, when a rumor can cause you serious harm and prevent others from doing business with you, and when the source is noncompliant, let him or her know that you're prepared to immediately contact a lawyer who will investigate the matter and file a legal claim.
How should you remedy unfortunate mistakes?
A mistake is something that one does in poor judgment, whether it's made intentionally or unintentionally. So, the next time you eff up, consider this three-part strategy to address it on your website, blog, or social media pages:
- Admit to the problem and apologize publicly. It's always better to own up to your own bullshit. For instance, should you foul up a live performance due to your out-of-control behavior, you might issue a statement that includes something like, "We deeply apologize to all of our fans for our behavior and poor performance onstage last night. Clearly our drinking has reached a point that is out of control."
- Limit the scope of the problem by putting it into perspective, which helps to deflate the issue. In keeping with the above example, you might want to add something like, "In several years of performing live and playing hundreds of gigs on the road, we've always delivered for our fans. This is the first time an unfortunate incident like this has ever occurred."
- Outline a solution that shows you're taking responsibility. This can rebuild an even greater level of trust and respect than what you had before the incident. For instance, you might want to conclude the example statement with, "There's nothing that we can do to make up for our behavior and the cancellation of the show last night, but we can refund everyone in the audience and return back to your city to give you a performance to remember!"
To learn more about crisis management, be sure to read up on the general topic of public relations, brand management, and crisis management. You can also check out Crisis Management by Harvard Business Press, Ira Kalb's Nuts and Bolts of Marketing, and be sure to pick up a copy of my book, Music Marketing For The DIY Musician, too. Cheers and good luck.
Bobby Borg is the author of Music Marketing for the DIY Musician: Creating and Executing a Plan of Attack on a Low Budget (September 2014). Find the book on Hal Leonard's website under "Trade Books" or on Amazon. Signed copies with a special offer are also available at bobbyborg.com.