Since the internet — and especially social media — has affected the way business is done to such an extent, PR crises are becoming far more common for companies. Many of those PR faux pas are due to a misuse or misunderstanding of social media interaction.
However, as much as social media can be the reason for a PR crisis, it can also be useful in helping to manage it. Social media is still the best way to create a rapport and interact with a particular demographic of customers directly.
The World of Social Media and How to Handle a PR Crisis
We consulted 10 members of YEC to figure out some smart ways business leaders can use social media to manage potential PR problems. Their responses are below.
1. Acknowledge the Crisis
The worst thing a company can do during a crisis is act like it’s not happening. This is a surefire way to turn away your current audience because it shows them you don’t know how to handle conflict, and that would make anyone refrain from doing business with you. Make sure you fully acknowledge the crisis on social media by posting about it and letting your audience know you’re handling it.
2. Be Transparent and Honest
During a crisis the best thing to do is be transparent and let your customers, employees and partners know exactly what is happening. Leverage your social media to keep them posted. They will trust you more and rally behind the cause to help.
3. Apologize Sincerely
Social media offers a great opportunity for companies to tell their side of the story in the midst of a PR crisis, but one should be careful not to add “spin.” There is so much fake perfection on social media that seeing vulnerability in a post is refreshing and is likely to be shared. Spend the time to craft an apology that addresses the crisis from your point of view but in an honest way.
4. Provide Live Responses
A PR crisis leads to a lot of questions from your audience or market. Dedicated members of your community want to learn the reality of the situation. Thanks to social media, they can reach out to your team directly, through a simple @. Reply to them quickly, with pre-considered, positive and honest answers. This helps you control the story and respond in a way that sticks to your values.
5. Inform Your Team
If your team has no idea what’s going on, then they won’t know how to appropriately respond to the situation. Make sure you communicate with your team about how best to handle the crisis moving forward and how they should respond if asked about it. That way, there are no surprises and the results will be more effective.
6. DM Your MVPs
Direct-message your most valuable contacts, clients and journalists. As you would reach out to family, reach out to your clients privately and update them on your communications, critical business planning pivots and updates during a crisis. Keep your social media tactical plan going, in terms of frequency and link building, but for communications and pivots, keep it private and personal.
7. Don’t Market
Give updates in real time as they happen. Answer questions with authentic responses. You can also wait to see what the general tone is about the crisis and chime in, again with full transparency. Don’t market during the crisis. Instead, figure out how you can help and connect with customers.
8. Do a Live Q&A Session
Are you looking for a way to ease tensions during a PR crisis? Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube allow you to host live Q&A events. Consumers can talk to you directly and get answers to their questions and concerns, which improves brand trust. Showing this level of transparency will help get customers back on your side and resolve any issues from past crises.
9. Pause All Outbound Messages
If there’s a hint of a public storm brewing, put an immediate stop to all scheduled content on your social media channels. There’s nothing worse than seeing a tone-deaf message go out because you’d already scheduled it a month ago. Notify your social media team to shift to monitor-only mode so they don’t innocently respond to a message before you’ve had time to craft an official response.
10. Use Listening Tools and Sentiment Analysis
Thanks to advances in AI, we can pick up brand mentions, references to our products and people’s opinions with listening tools. We can also assess how people feel. For a business, it’s possible to pick up negative chatter at the very beginning. This means that you’ll have a head start on crisis management. More time is an invaluable asset that you can use to manage your brand image online.
How to Take Control Over Your Brand Coverage on Social Media
With more than a few billion users spread across all of the major social networking platforms, a PR crisis or social media disaster is more likely than you think. However, the good news is that there are plenty of ways to better protect and secure your brand before one happens.
Be sure to run through the list of actionable and recommended tips above by industry experts, to make sure you can protect your brand online and also take advantage of other digital marketing case studies and PR disasters that are happening daily.
With social media being a huge focus for businesses and brands of all sizes, you might also like to read through our other expert roundups on how to improve your customer support on social media or some creative ways to reach Gen Z through social media.