Don’t Let Sour News Linger: In the Wake of Negative News, Shift the Focus Forward

There is no good reason to let outdated signs linger, especially when they represent a negative event. (Inside Edge PR photo)

From a distance, thanks to the big red letters against the white poster in the front window of the building, the words are easy to see: “THIS STORE WILL BE CLOSING ON.”

Only when getting much closer to the window would you be able to see the hand-scrawled customization of that generic announcement: “Sat., 12-28-13 @ Noon.”

Last week, this is what greeted anyone who paid a visit to the former Dominick’s store at 7501 W. North Ave. in River Forest.

Work is under way to bring in a new tenant–with Fresh Thyme poised to come to the space in the near future–but in the meantime, there’s the matter of this lingering sour news.

The closure hang-over holds a pair of public relations-and-marketing lessons:

1. Look forward, not back, especially when looking back is a downer.

Maintaining notice of the store’s closure for a few days, maybe even a few weeks, is understandable. With the demise of more than 70 Dominick’s stores in the Chicago area last year, it made good business sense to let the public know when any given site was wrapping things up.

But after that brief window of time, it’s time to adorn the window in a more upbeat, forward-looking way. How about a “future home of” type of message, even if you don’t quite know whose home that will be yet? You could keep the end of the phrase open-ended, perhaps with a reference to a future “thriving business” or some similar phrasing.

At minimum, as days turn to weeks and weeks become months and months give way to new seasons, the future-tense reference to “will be closing” may come across as a wee bit neglectful.

2. If you choose to look back, then find something positive about the past.

Because Dominick’s was no longer around, then the onus for the River Forest site has been on the building owner, Mid-America Real Estate Group, to provide a new look that lightens and brightens the image being projected to the world. With thousands of vehicles bustling daily along busy North Avenue, with a clear view of the shuttered store, that space is a de facto billboard for whatever message Mid-America wants to convey.

Some time in mid-January, a thank-you message to customers for their years of loyalty would have been an improvement over the stagnancy of the sign that offered a heads-up to those final Dominick’s shoppers.

Taking no action on the PR front makes as much of a statement as anything you may proactively proclaim. Problem is, it’s more than likely not a statement that helps your cause or reflects well on your organization.

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