A public relations crisis is a common incident many companies face at some point. The lasting impact of the incident is not so much about the crisis itself, but the way it’s handled.
In the midst of the crisis, it’s important to approach your audience and the issue at hand with careful consideration. This is often achieved by delivering the right communication at the right time through the right medium, such as your social media channels.
Below, 15 members of YEC shared some of the ways you can use social media to help resolve negative PR situations as they occur.
1. Post Live Updates
It depends on the situation you’re dealing with, but one way to use social media during a crisis is to post live updates. Whenever you and your team have made a significant change and are fixing holes, let your audience know. This will show people that you’re on the job. Timely updates will create reassurance.
2. Assess the Truth of What Happened
You can use social media to assess the truth about what really happened and how to determine the impact. The internet allows for ample misinformation, but a good investigation will uncover what caused the crisis and what potential users desire as a solution. In addition, you can set guidelines for the social media manager or specialist on how to respond to the influx. This sets standards.
3. Leverage Authentic Storytelling
When in a PR crisis, never go on public defense. That’s a guaranteed PR mess. Find that one story of yours that’s worth sharing “in your own words,” make it authentic by being your true self (which at times includes your vulnerable self) and share that story. Sometimes the audience just needs something “real” to bond to and feel connected with you in order to overcome a crisis.
4. Be Responsive and Transparent
The key to managing social media during a crisis is to be responsive and transparent. Be sure to respond to comments ASAP, share frequent updates and empower your employees to act as advocates. Show that there are humans behind your company and brand, and appeal to your customers without hiding behind a “copy and paste” corporate apology.
5. Explain the Situation and Promise Further Updates
We use social media as an alternate customer support platform. If you use this strategy too, you’ll start to see an influx of messages from concerned customers. Use this opportunity to explain the situation to your customers and let them know you’ll share updates as soon as you can. This small step of being present in the middle of a crisis can significantly impact how people see your brand.
6. Host an Open Discussion
Depending on the type of PR crisis, you might want to use social media to host a discussion or Q&A session. For example, you could ask people to post their questions in the comments section of a Facebook post and then go live to answer them. Be as open, humble and transparent as possible to build trust back up with the community.
7. Share How You Will Resolve the Issue
During a PR crisis, it’s more important than ever to be open and transparent. Social media provides the perfect platform to be open about the strategy you’ve put together to resolve the issue and keep your audience updated along the way. It provides a very honest and visible way to make good on your promises and build (or rebuild) credibility.
8. Stay True to Your Brand Voice and Core Values
The key to using social media effectively for your business is the same whether you’re in crisis mode or not. Be authentic to your brand voice and core values. Respond to positive and negative comments or tweets calmly and genuinely. It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment during a crisis. It will pass. Keep your cool, weather the storm and move on.
9. Communicate the Facts
In the midst of a PR crisis, one way to use social media to help resolve a situation and find calm is to communicate the facts, provide information transparently and regularly and make sure to address any comment that may misguide the public.
10. Follow a Set Policy
One way to manage a PR crisis through social media is to ensure that your organization has a social media policy in place. The policy should have clear guidelines for all employees and a consistent, unified voice to ensure brand congruence.
11. Build a Response Into Your Social Media Chatbot
If you’re using a chatbot service on your social media accounts, add a new introduction that lets customers know that your team is working on the issue. This small step can drastically reduce the number of support tickets and give you more time and space to resolve the issue.
12. Speak as a Person
Social media is the main vehicle to be transparent with your community about what’s happening in the company. Ideally you want to do this from a person and not the brand. The brand should share what the person (probably the CEO) needs to communicate to the community. This way, you will actually provide an authentic message backed by the brand.
13. Respond in Real Time
The key thing, possibly more than anything, is to be very responsive. Even if you need to be cautious and just let people know you’re looking into the situation and will have a response soon, it lets people know that you’re taking it seriously. Social media is a great way to be responsive in real time, and that super responsiveness is key no matter what you say.
14. Focus on Controlling the Situation
People easily forget. Focus on controlling the situation, and avoid over-explaining or overstating things. Post something relatable and extra sensitive about the crisis, and then don’t spend too much time on that anymore. In social media, the only way to stop it is by just ignoring it.
15. Be Honest But Reassuring
Be honest but reassuring at every turn. For example, your overall strategy might be to admit that you were at fault, but that you will solve the issue and assure your customers that such a crisis will never occur again.
How to Survive and Thrive in Social Media
In order to make it in the world of social media and always being able to control any unexpected events that might take place, it’s important to make sure you have the necessary precautions and recovery strategies in place.