We’ve all seen what going viral in a “bad way” means. One bad tweet and then a few tone-deaf responses to criticism and your entire brand gets burned to ashes online. It takes years to build a brand and a few bad reviews to ruin it.
Learn how to prevent a PR crisis and the best way to handle an erupting social media volcano.
Prevent a PR Crisis
It’s far easier to prevent a crisis than rebuild from one. Get your team together and brainstorm worst-nightmare scenarios, the ones you don’t really want to think about. Not only is this a good exercise, you might also discover your weak spots. (For example, if people keep bringing up safety concerns, you might want to take a deeper look at your security plans).
Triple-check all of your communications—are you being inclusive, honest and fair? For a good example of a PR crisis, take a look at the numbers of dislikes on this Pepsi ad. Not only did Pepsi put an insensitive ad out, they made the situation worse by trying to defend the ad on social media.
That’s 59k thumbs down for Pepsi.
Prepare for the Worst
• Set up a crisis communications team. If you don’t have a PR person on staff, include at least one manager, a few people who monitor and a solid writer to craft the message. Have everyone’s contact info in a printed spreadsheet on-hand.
• Monitor all hashtags and handles related to your event. It’s relatively easy (and free) to do this for Twitter in Tweetdeck. Just add columns with your company and event’s name and any relevant hashtags or handles. Check in on it often, especially during your event.
• Set up Google Alerts for your company or event name. Any press regarding your event will be sent to your inbox. You can set up the alerts to come as frequently as you prefer.
• Define crisis and communicate that definition to staff. Is a crisis a few bad reviews or a thousand? Develop a flowchart that matches the situation with your contact list so you know, at-a-glance who to contact, when.
• Your first instinct will be to react and defend yourself and your company. Don’t. Take a minute, breathe deeply and gain composure.
• Get a good sense of what’s happening and what social channels people are using to communicate. Call your team.
• If the problem is not yet fixed, compose a message that expresses empathy and let’s them know it will be soon.
“We understand your frustration. Our team is working round the clock to fix the issue and we’ll have an update for you in 1 hour. Thank you for your patience.”
Own what went wrong and what you could have done better. Avoid flippancy, negativity, and above all, defensiveness.
Strive to be relatable and mention what you’ll do differently moving forward.
Be human. Imagine that you had to apologize to a friend for a mistake. Your first step is admitting fault, then you talk about what you’ll do differently in the future to try and salvage the friendship. Don’t make excuses or get defensive.
“The Mini-Horse Parade sincerely, from-the-bottom-of-our-gut apologizes for overselling Tuesday night’s Roll in the Neigh performance. We know we disappointed many of our customers and we reacted poorly to your criticism online. We are offering a makeup performance in two weeks for those affected by our mistake. ”
Make It Good
You have to “make it good,” to your customers, but it has to be in the right way. If they had a horrible time, they probably aren’t into the idea of a 5% discount to the next show.
“Looking in the mirror is the best PR advice there is when dealing with crisis situations. It ensures we do the right thing. And right beats spin every time,” said Kim Miller of Ink Link Marketing, LLC. in this Forbes article.
Have you ever endured a social media or PR crisis? Comment below and tell us what you learned.