When a crisis hits - on social media

As companies become more aware about reputation management - the impact of social media suddenly plays a much larger role. First, it's important to realize that whomever takes on that role, is also taking a role of 'communications lead' when a crisis hits or any negative feedback from your audiences.

PR is always at the heart of a your company’s marketing & communications and how you respond has the power to build confidence or put further distance between you and your audience. 

When trying to manage your own social media marketing channels, you have to find a way to gain support from the entire company/team. When things erupt online, it can be like trying to clean up an oil spill with a cotton swab - there’s just so many ways it can go. The best strategic process is to prevent a negative situation from gaining momentum.

The ultimate goal is simple; Establish a unified message and coordinate your content, including how and when things are shared.  

So what if a mini crisis hits? Crisis online can evolve in two ways - it can be either internally lead or outwardly driven.

  • Internally lead - Damage happens within or by company, and leads to or is expedited by online rumours, shares and engagement, further compounding the negative effects.

  • Outwardly driven - disgruntled or misinformed public, takes online to share and spread mis-information, creating or exacerbating a problem or issue.

Both need to be dealt with, both can have lasting effects for your brand online.

Here are some tips to help:

Step 1 - To take stock of how far and wide said information has reached. Google alerts, engagement reports, hashtag research and other clues that can lead to a trail and help you establish the level of clean up needed and the team required to do it.

Step 2 - Assess quickly, what or who is getting the most ‘air time’ - for example a quick synopsis of online comments can gage what people are most dis-satisfied with; the company stakeholders, the communication, the product, the ethics, past events, etc.

Don’t spend time getting caught up in responding to individual comments, this can be very negative and push you into multiple one on one battles with your public. This will not be a productive use of your time and will take you away from the ultimate goal!

Step 3 - Determine if there is any other patterns you can see with the online behaviour, before and during your crisis - is there a certain time when the needle ‘spikes’, so to speak. In prevention PR, timing can be everything.

Step 4 - Gather with your leadership team - Directors, managers, and brief them of the situation. This may be solved among the day to day players in your office, or if the crisis level is much higher - you may wish to involved the CEO, Chief Reputation officer, Board of Directors or others who may have critical input to the situation at hand.

Step 5 - Present the message to your employees, staff and give them the next steps on getting it out across all channels and how. They should come away knowing the shell of the message based on company policies, mission, positions and ethics - and it can be crafted to meet the requirements and culture of the different communications channels.

Finally, you will need to identify the best tools, resources and platforms to help you track rapid communication during a crisis. These tools will also allow you to determine whether or not the communications strategy is working to move the negative sentiment to neutral or positive.