Many business leaders would say that handling a PR crisis is an eventuality. But in today’s always-on world of social media and brand communications, what is already a crisis can get out of hand very easily.
The solution may be to leverage social media to get out messages that take control of the situation and give brands a fighting chance to recover quickly. For example, after the incident in which two black men were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks, CEO Kevin Johnson apologized in a video shared across the brand’s online platforms.
For more ideas on swiftly getting in front of a crisis, we asked members of Young Entrepreneur Council to share tips on how to handle a PR crisis on social media.
1. Share a CTA
Inevitably, all corporations and businesses will have issues arise. Social media has given us a great platform to address these issues head on directly to our clients and customers. What lacks from many public apologies is a call to action. At the end of your video, you should offer some sort of call to action, such as a discount or coupon. Chipotle did this very well in 2017
2. Get Ahead of the Story
The first thing a brand can do to leverage social media is to immediately roll out an official statement regarding its position on the matter. Waiting more than a few hours can allow the media and the social universe to create and carry the narrative. After broadcasting their position, brands should be the first in line to create a public forum for ideas and discussion on addressing these issues.
3. Watch for Warning Signs
One of the keys to effective crisis management on social media is to be highly vigilant when it comes to complaints and controversy before it escalates. Social media can be very effective for getting your brand’s message out there quickly. It’s also likely the first place you will know of potential issues. Consider a media monitoring tool with alerts.
4. Be Authentic
Although it’s not something any brand wants to happen, the reality is that mistakes are made. At the end of the day, people want to see authenticity. They want to know that there are real, genuine people behind the brands and that they’re willing to take ownership of these mistakes. The key is to react quickly and take responsibility for the mistake.
5. Be Prepared
Social media is a wild environment and when an incident goes viral at scale, it can be almost impossible to control public opinion. Focus on addressing the issue in the best possible way and hope you’ll be judged as fair by the populace.
6. Stream Live on Facebook
Streaming live on Facebook offers a level of authenticity where the message cannot be edited or manipulated in any way. It also offers you the advantage of controlling the narrative of a PR crisis. It’s like tweeting with video.
7. Be Proactive
Every company needs a proactive approach to leveraging social media for crisis management. Proactive measures begin with smarter hiring decisions, continue through training for all levels of staff on professional social media usage and inform what it means to be a front-lines ambassador for the brand. Reactions to negative PR always lack authenticity. Showing staff that your company thinks proactively minimizes risk.
8. Handle Issues with Immediacy
Social media creates a rise in the sense of urgency, allowing you to streamline past the agenda of traditional media outlets. Live streams can be utilized for press conferences that have high urgency and need further reach.
9. Hold an Ask-Me-Anything Session
While live streaming may be an effective way to transparently connect to the public during a crisis, it isn’t always the best way to get on top of a developing crisis. Instead, aim for a form of communication that still allows for some control. An AMA (ask me anything) through Reddit is an excellent compromise between control and intimacy that can be helpful for navigating PR crises.
10. Own the Mistake
Fighting it on social media tends to add more fuel to the fire, unless you’re completely in the right. But in most cases, just owning up to something results in little downside and potentially averts a major PR disaster. There are countless examples of companies handling it the wrong way and sparking even larger outrage.
11. Hold Yourself Accountable
The public has less and less tolerance for anyone, whether they’re politicians or CEOs, trying to avoid responsibility. So the number one thing is to admit when you’ve made a mistake and apologize in a way that’s sincere. Then do what you can to make things right. It’s even better to create a positive and cohesive company culture so you avoid having problems like this in the first place.
Protecting Your Brand when a PR Disaster Strikes!
No one ever wants to deal with a media or PR disaster, but when they happen… they happen. The difference between those who can make it through these disasters are those who are prepared and are already well ranked in the search results. Follow these tips to make sure your brand and business is well protected online.