My boss had a negative article about her one year ago. Should I ask for a retraction?

I want advice on reputation management for my boss who had a negative article reported on her about one year ago and I am hesitant about it.

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6

Hi, Scott! Ooh, that's a tough one. First of all it was a year ago. I am guessing this is something on the Internet? I think if the article was negative enough to cause a lawsuit, then you probably could get away with it. The trouble is, it was a year ago. On the other hand, there is no harm in asking in a polite manner for a retraction.

Now, consider this, if for whatever reason, the publisher decides to post something online, like an apology or something else to bring this whole problem to light to the public--once again, then you've brought the beast to life to a new fresh audience, which would cause more problems for your boss. I think it is a tough call, and you might want to leave it alone if it isn't someplace in the public view every single day.

Hi Diane, Thanks for your advice. The problem is one article rotates from position 2 to 7 on page 1 so it does continue to cause problems. Whenever anyone does research they gravitate to the negative article so there is no telling if it will ever go away. I was thinking of writing a press release on how some media does not do a thorough job reporting and it can ruin a career or business. We were six hours from being on the O'Reilly factor and I have to think the producer decided against it at the last minute due to the article. The other problem is the reporter does not return my calls when I pitch other news so my next press release may require me to go over her head and hit the business people of the paper.Sorry for the rant. Thanks again.

Something just popped into my head. I don't know if this is even possible, but . . . could you hire an SEO guy to bury the piece in the Internet search engines, so that it would never surface again?

6

Scott,

1.) Media outlets, editors, writers and journalists don't have to write an apology or retract the article unless the facts stated within the article aren't true. And, you've stated the facts in the article were correct.

2.) Media outlets writers, and journalists are not obligated to write a follow up article to an event they originally reported on unless the editor deems it is necessary to do so.

3.) Media outlets, writers, journalists, editors are not obligated to respond to every 'pitch' sent to them nor are they obligated to return a PR person's phone calls. If you had a subscription to Cision, Vocus, MyMediaInfo or other service, you would learn:

a.) What topics the reporter, writer, journalist, and editor reports on.

NOTE: With respect to your specific situation, the person who wrote the article may no longer be covering that segment of the paper or they may have been asked to step in short term to fill a void and write that article.

b.) The preferred method of contact for each specific blogger, writer, editor or journalist. Very few accept 'pitch' phone calls to them anymore. Most prefer email correspondence. As the paper's website states they want correspondence by email only.

Lastly, above you said "...it can ruin a career or business." I believe the attorney was very prophetic with his comments in the article.

So, one has to ask why did he say them, was he authorized to say what he said, why did your boss say what she said, were there any meetings between you, your boss and the attorney on how best to react and handle the crisis before commenting to the reporter?

It's for this reason why every business needs a formal crisis communications plan in place spelling out the steps and actions to be taken to handle a potentially devastating event to the business.

It's the exact thing that Olivia Pope on the TV show Scandal is all about — fixing problems related to a crisis. She provides an objective voice to people when their world is imploding around them.

5

Hi Scott,
Reading that this article is a year old, bringing it back to light, may not serve your boss well. However, if you can create some good press about what the company is doing NOW, you can get that search buried. Socially, attending high profile worthy events, If you are active with social media, your twitter feeds, facebook, instagram et al will start filling that first page. Another thought is for her to get involved in a not for profit/cause she cares about and do some public good.
Revisiting the past will not help. The reporter is not going to help. If you are acquainted with the reporters boss, find a newsworthy reason to set up a lunch. Stay forward and positive.

5

1) A negative article? Was it wrong? If not, she shouldn't even consider raising it – let sleeping dogs lie.

2) If you don't, you will be opening a can of worms and you won't be in control of the outcome.

3) If there was something wrong with the article (and not that her feelings were hurt), why didn't she do something about it a year ago? It's too late – see answer 2.

4) What you should be looking to do is counter that article with positive coverage (not BS) that makes it easy to dismiss the other article as an anomaly which she was big enough to let go.

5) FInally, if answer 1 is the case, do not even consider asking for a retraction. The publication (if they've any sense) will savage you and it will be done in a very public and slow fashion. Because if there was anything wrong with it, why wasn't that addressed a year ago?

6) No, this is the final one as I saw your response to Diane. DO NOT do a release on the media failing to research something. It's neither news nor anything to do with your business. And you will anger all those millions of hard working journalists who do research things properly and they'll share your story all over the internet.

I'm beginning to wonder if the PR side of your job is something completely new to you.

5

Scott,

One cannot typically ask for a retraction unless something is factually incorrect. Just because an article is "negative" is not in itself enough reason to approach the publication. What's more, it would be highly unusual to see a retraction take place if no issues had been raised for an entire year after publication.

My recommendation on how to handle such a situation in the future would be the following:
1. Have your boss or allies of your company write letters to the editor challenging the presumptions in the article (if incorrect)
2. Seek to publicize more favorable aspects of your boss' career
3. If said "negative" article comes up high in search results, utilize SEO to optimize any existing, favorable content so it appears more prominently in search
4. Lastly, if there were negative items reported and they are in fact true, seek ways to minimize those types of root causes in the future - be more strategic in allowing the media to access your company, do a better job of publicizing positive accomplishments, and the like.

Hope this helps,

-David Gershwin

We are on the same page.

4

In a word, no. As a rule of thumb, your strongest comeback is factual inaccuracy and you need to do that quick. Have done this with a national UK paper before, but you have to be sure it's an error of fact and not a difference of opinion. A fortnight is too long to leave it, in my view, let alone a year.

If there's nothing factually wrong, your best approach is to put it behind you and aim to set the record straight somewhere else. If the negative article still comes up as a top google hit against her name, then you should probably be prepared to tackle the negativity in the next interview you do - put it behind you with a clear rebuttal: a restatement of events/ facts supported by proof points (ie third party comment or data) depending on what was negative.

If there isn't a clear and decisive rebuttal, most likely you don't have a perception problem, but a reality problem - so you may need to tackle it differently.

Whatever you do - good luck with it. I've been there!

Right on!!!

4

A question to ask is was the article factual and accurate? If so, asking for a retraction has no grounds. Yet your boss or the company can work to offer a story to the media, with your boss being interviewed, with an angle on how she problem solved the negative story professionally, ethically and morally. That could be a good story. Did the boss do all she could to remedy a negative situation?

If you're saying that she was misjudged in the article, that the piece was not accurate, why was nothing done at the time?

At this point her reputation has been hit yet what matters most is her character. If she responded intelligently, skillfully, ethically and morally, then she likely responded effectively.

Michael Toebe
Conflict Management Care

3

Hi Scott. Is this article about private life or professional life? If it is related with company have to be clarified instantly. First I would have a background check to gain all of details regarding the negative article. Then if this article is based on real facts I would build a positive marketing strategy to improve the image company. What is there cannot be retracted as somebody could have had already save it somewhere else.
The second scenario would be that if it is related with your boss private life then I would remain neutral unless you are a private P.A. Even though as a P.A. I would think carefully before to make any kind of decision. Moreover you have to consider if you have worked for your boss at that time.Considering both sides of negativity impact and assessing which aspect is involved you should make a correct decision.

It is her private life that has relevancy in her profession which is why the media was so eager to report it. The article was accurate, but they failed to finish the job. The charges against her were dropped by the police a few weeks after the incident. And the media did not write a follow up story. I think we wanted to keep a low profile at the time and not give the story anymore fuel to the fire.

3

Hi Scott,

You note in your comments to a question that the article was accurate -- therefore, it doesn't qualify for a retraction.
Given the situation and the time element, the best course of action would be to move on, but add as background, when appropriate, what the final outcome was in a way that positively reflects on your boss.
There are many reasons the media may not run with a follow up, which have nothing to do with your boss, so don't hold a grudge. -:)

I agree with you and I used the wrong word . It should not be a retraction. What I could request is that the reporter provide a follow up on the events that succeeded the article.

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