How to Survive a Public Business Failure



Public failures happen in business. Whether it’s news of a store closing, an internal scandal, or a social media smear campaign courtesy of a disgruntled customer—coming out on top after a business failure or public gaffe can be a challenge, but it’s not insurmountable. Here are a few ways to move past a business fail with a winning message.

1.) Use Positive Messaging

The first step to overcoming a public business crisis is communicating to the public. Whether your public statement succeeds or fails is largely determined by the messaging. For example, if your business is undergoing foreclosure or coming to an abrupt end, it’s critical to use an affirmative message when communicating the news to your customers. Take for example BET’s recent cancellation of 106th and Park:

“America’s No. 1 music variety show on cable television, 106 & PARK, will host its final daily on-air show on December 19, 2014, concluding its impressive 14-year run. The 106 & PARK brand remains strong and […] looks forward to continuing its reign as the hottest hangout on one of the coolest digital platforms,”

BET shifts the focus from the cancellation to its new home online. This is a great example of using a positive message to spin the conversation.

2.) Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

Humor is one of the most clever tactics used to sway public opinion. The key to successfully using humor is to deliver the joke in the appropriate context. It takes wit and creativity to strike the balance between having a sense of humor and owning up to your shortcomings. An epic example of using humor to turn a fail into a win, is Senator Marco Rubio’s infamous TV gaffe, which he pivoted by using humor to his advantage and cashed out at $119k in campaign contributions.

3.) Issue a Joint Statement

There is great power in solidarity and showing a united front. In my involvement with the Small Business Administration, Members of Congress and elected officials, I discovered joint statements are an effective way to rally support. Here’s one example of when I joined together two powerhouses to deliver a powerful statement to rally support on an issue. In the instance of a public failure, issuing a joint statement with an influential ally sends a message that despite your shortcoming you have strong support; which helps rally loyal supporters.

Going into business means you run the risk of failure. Whether it’s a poor business decision or a public gaffe. But don’t let the fear of failure stop you from trying. As RFK so wisely stated, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”

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Krystal Glass is the CEO of Krystal Glass Communications, a communications firm specializing in workshops and conversations for today’s innovators, entrepreneurs & creative thinkers. Krystal teaches numerous marketing workshops at General Assembly’s Washington D.C. campus.