Even more interestingly, you will often find that the person who made negative statements will bend over backward to do something nice for you later on. Admiral Joseph Prueher advocates developing a "media bank account." You make some "investments" by helping out media personnel from time to time with stories, and then when you need some help from the media, you can make a "withdrawal."
Southwest Airlines CEO Jim Parker told me an interesting story along these lines. He considers Southwest to be a "media-friendly company," and he personally likes reporters. However, he recalls one instance where a reporter for a major newspaper had run a story critical of Southwest's labor relations policies. Southwest's management felt that the article was unfair and communicated its concerns to the newspaper—but in an even-tempered, respectful, and private manner. A couple of weeks later, the same paper ran a very favorable feature story about the airline. Parker does not believe it was an accident. Rather, he believes that the careful cultivation of a good relationship with the media—even when you are disappointed with a particular story or commentary—almost always produces tangible positive results in the future.
I call this phenomenon the "subconscious payback"—and it is a common theme among people who deal with publicity issues successfully. Even the sports world lends support to this idea. Former Chicago Blackhawks center Adam Creighton discussed with me the subconscious payback phenomenon in professional hockey when dealing with referees and linesmen. "If the referee makes a bad call, and you let him know it in a respectful rather than angry way, more often than not, a judgment call will go your way later in the game. It's not something intentional on the part of the ref, it's just human nature," he says.
The same principles hold true for smaller-scale PR nightmares, such as the actions of backstabbing coworkers. More often than not, you can totally disarm backstabbers by getting to know them, showing respect for their viewpoints, and then slowly trying to bring them around. The person might not apologize or correct past wrongdoings, but you will find that he or she will stand up for you in the most unlikely circumstances down the road.