Let’s face it. Not all publicity surrounding you or your business will be good at times. And with social media, the word can quickly spread like wildfire.

Republican presidential contender Herman Cain is a good example of how important it is to have a strong publicity plan in place to handle WHATEVER may be thrown your way. He had to know allegations of sexual harrassment would come up–whether they were true in his mind or not.

As a veteran journalist, here are some of my recommendations for combating negative publicity:

1. Have a publicity plan in place for your business—no matter how small it is. Consider all the possible crises that could occur with your particular industry.

2. Appoint a spokesperson—someone who can stay calm in the face of media pressure and questions.

3. Look for the positive spin if you can. Stay calm and tell the press the positive changes the public can expect to see,

4. Keep your customers, employees and anyone else you deem important in the loop during a public relations crisis. Keeping a hand clamped over your mouth may make you feel better, but it will only fuel speculation about your business.

5. Do your homework. Notice how other companies handle their crises. Consider how a similar crisis could affect your business and strategize ways to deal with it.

6. Prepare a statement for the press. No news is not necessarily good news, and reporters will find the story if you don’t give it to them. You may not like the angle they present so be proactive and take a hand in shaping the angle.

7. Use your website. If you don’t have a site, start one today. You can use this avenue to circumvent the media and get your side of a story before the public.

8. Consider hiring a public relations firm or professional to handle a major crisis, such as a product recall, an employee fatality, a sexual harassment suit or a situation that you just don’t know how to handle. You’ll be thankful you hired a pro when the storm has passed.