This post was first published by Megan Grobert on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.

On a daily basis, we PR professionals scan the news to gauge public perception of our clients. Being a media-focused culture, public perception is incredibly important to building a strong brand. This does not mean that negative press will always destroy a company, but how that negative press is handled can greatly impact the public’s perception of the brand, especially when members of the public are being affected. Take, for example, the recent dispute between CBS and Time-Warner Cable.

The argument, which feels a bit like a schoolyard scuffle, has left some urging for third party intervention, as Time-Warner customers find other means of watching their favorite CBS shows.

How do brands deal with difficult situations without hurting their public perception?

In cases such as the CBS Time-Warner feud, it can be tricky when something this high-profile directly affects millions of customers who are not involved in the contract negotiations. That being said, no matter the weight of the brand, these general tips can be helpful in maintaining a positive public perception:

  1. Don’t ignore the issue – Pretending something isn’t happening, especially when it is publicly viewable, is never a good idea. An ostrich with its head in the sand doesn’t fool anybody. We can all still see it’s an ostrich. Simply acknowledging the issue can go a long way with fans and onlookers alike.
  2. Know your audience and listen – While everyone may be able to see the issue, it is important to remember what your target demographic is. Gaining new business is great, but maintaining a loyal base is critical in a negative situation. Keeping your customers happy will help to ensure your brand stays strong in the future.
  3. Public bashing is never cute – Take time to think and respond appropriately if someone calls out an issue with your brand. Ensure the message you deliver is honest and fits your company’s personality. By responding to negativity in a respectful way, you are far less likely to alienate your customers.
  4. You can’t please all the people all the time – Yes, having the whole world love your brand would be nice, but the bottom line is that they won’t, and that’s okay. If your efforts are focused on delivering quality, they will not go unnoticed, even if everyone can’t be happy in the end.

As the CBS Time-Warner dispute continues, now with a class-action lawsuit underway, it will be interesting to watch how they continue to react in public. How will Time-Warner patch up relations with their CBS-loving subscribers, and how will CBS fans feel about the brand moving forward? Until there is a resolution, we Bostonians can breathe a sigh of relief that it hasn’t affected our area, allowing us to dutifully cheer on the Patriots.