Sometimes, a company or organization will run into trouble. It can be a simple gaffe – a mistaken statement or action. Maybe something happened at your place of business, a college campus, in your parking lot, or other instances where you are receiving backlash. Or it can be a huge problem, like a lawsuit slapped against your company. And what once was a small mistake can easily escalate into a huge deal. You may have a crisis communication strategy in place with a PR team ready to go with press releases, media contacts, and outreach efforts. But what will you do about social media?
Although social media is a great place to promote your brand, it can also be a dark place that can harm your company’s reputation. What you may think is a small problem can easily explode on Facebook. Soon you will be getting trolled with people writing nasty comments on your post, writing blogs vilifying your business, and even speaking out on videos and podcasts. You’ll want to say, “Oh no she didn’t!” But yes, she did. You may have it under control in the press, but the same can’t be said on the Web. You need to make sure that just as you have policies in place for other areas of possible crisis situations, you need to have a plan for your digital presence as well.
The Evolution of Crisis Communication
In public relations, crisis communications specifically shield a company against an attack on its reputation. Generally, a strategy is put in place, involving three phases:
- A pre-crisis stage where the company prepares to prevent any crisis from occurring.
- The crisis state which is how the company responds to the event.
- A post-crisis state, where the team analyzes what happened and learn how to prevent it from happening again.
But nowadays, crisis communication models must involve a social media response. As we learned in the 2016 presidential election, the majority of Americans now get their news through social media. And a simple story, whether it’s true or false, will quickly become viral. If you fail to address the crisis on your social media platforms, then your business’ reputation can suffer greatly. It can cause anxiety, sleepless nights, and much more chaos.
How Can You Handle a Social Media Crisis?
Here are three major steps you need to have in place when dealing with a crisis on social media:
- Plan it out – Like your PR campaign, you need to have a plan in place before the crisis occurs. This is very important!! Have it before something even happens. BE PROACTIVE and BE PREPARED. How will you respond to negative comments on your Facebook? Will you release a statement on your website? Should you go on a popular podcast to explain the issue? Do you disable commenting? Do you hide or delete them? Who is on your social media crisis team? You should have a social media crisis manual or set of instructions just like you do for any other important aspect.
- Monitor the situation – You need to stay on top of the crisis, especially on social media. Keep a tab on what everyone is saying. Did someone create a negative hashtag relating to your business on Twitter? Are you receiving nasty comments on your business’ Facebook wall? Is there a blog out there calling for a boycott? You need to keep an eye on the internet. Track everything you can. How many shares, comments, reactions do these posts have and are they gaining momentum?
- Own up to the situation if necessary – You need to take responsibility for your actions. This may mean posting a statement on all social media platforms. You will also need to respond to comments, both good and bad, and quickly. Respond with understanding.