This past weekend the New York Times broke the news that J.C. Penney – and their SEO agency – were caught with their hands in the ‘black hat’ SEO jar. The retail giant’s Dallas-based SEO agency has since been fired. The question remains: How will one of the nation’s biggest retail giants recover from the underlying damage to the brand’s reputation?

This is where Public Relations – and an effective strategy for crisis communications – are crucial to offset the negative conversations taking place across B2B, B2C and social media channels. For a retailer with 1100+ retail stores across the country and millions of brand-loyal shoppers, all eyes are on J.C. Penney to see how they’ll respond.

With a little humility and a lot of transparency in their SEO processes, J.C. Penney might be able to salvage their brand reputation – and executive jobs – without losing their customers’ loyalty and, in turn, revenue.

Humility Can Offset Negative Publicity

A smart PR/Communications team will craft a series of straightforward, humble and apologetic responses – such as emails to journalists, press releases, Facebook discussions, Tweets, media alerts and everything in between – to quell the fears and mistrust of consumers, investors and business partners.

Transparency Is Key

Apologies are just the first step. The next step is to outline what steps have been taken to not only remedy the initial problem, but to create systems and processes that will prevent a similar situation from occurring again.

Keep the Communication Channels Open

Once a brand has slipped in the eyes of the news media, it’s going to be that much easier for them to fall from their graces again. The best counter-approach to this is simple: Keep the communication channels open with key business, financial and technology press.

Author: Ragini Bhalla, Public Relations Director, Elite SEM