6 Tips to Guard Against Social Media & PR Crises
Every once in a while, your brand reputation will come under a major attack. It might happen once every few months, or it might happen only once every few years. Whatever the case is, you need to have a fast, immediate response.
If you respond to the assault quickly, you’ll be able to walk away with your brand, business and reputation in tact. On the other hand, fail to respond and you’ll quickly find your customers fleeing to your competitors.
Here are six steps to protecting your brand and your reputation.
Step 1: Acknowledge the Crisis Immediately
The worst thing you could do is try to pretend as if nothing is happening.
On the social web, companies that take responsibility for their mistakes and quickly respond to social media firestorms can put out the fires quickly with a good response. However, fail to respond and the firestorm will spread and spread and spread.
Step 2: Don’t Say Anything Until You Have Something to Say
Until you have a meaningful response, don’t say anything. If you go into the public spotlight and say something that’s essentially an empty apology, you could exacerbate the problem.
BP’s CEO did this spectacularly after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill through statements like “nobody wants this over more than me, I’d like my life back.”
Until you have a solid response, hold off on going public.
Step 3: Learn to Make U-Turns
Know when you’re wrong and when you have to make U-Turns. If you think one thing but your customers adamantly shout something else, listen to your customers.
Apple made a great U-Turn with the iPhone 4 launch. When people started complaining about the iPhone 4 antennae issue, Steve Jobs wasn’t worried. He simply said “just don’t hold it that way.”
Then the issue grew and grew and grew until it was on every tech blog and on the front page of several national newspapers. That’s when Apple realized: They were wrong.
So they made a U-Turn. They issued free bumpers to everyone who bought an iPhone 4. An expensive reversal, but it may very well have saved the brand and the product launch.
Step 4: Improve Customer to Brand Communication
How easy is it for a customer to get in touch with you? If you have a major PR crisis on your hand, it needs to be as easy as possible for someone to get in touch.
Setup a hotline. Create a special Twitter hashtag. Create a helpdesk support ticket system just for this one issue.
Make it easy for customers with concerns about the issue at hand to get in touch with a real human being. That might sound costly, but when weighed against losing a customer for life, the cost is marginal.
Step 5: Learn and Setup Alert Systems
If you were blindsided by this issue, take a look at your alert systems. You should have systems setup that allow you to catch these kinds of issues before they balloon into crises.
For example, you should have systems in place that scan Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites to see what people are saying about your brand. You should have Google Alerts (or a similar system) setup to monitor news and blog feeds to see if people are talking about you.
This allows you to catch potentially damaging stories early in the cycle, rather than play catchup later down the line. Learn from your mistakes and setup new systems to catch PR issues from the start.
Step 6: Increase Visibility, Change the Topic, Build Your Brand
The best way to get someone over talking about a negative topic is to move on to a positive one. If your company made a mistake, apologize, make amends, then move on. Don’t keep apologizing and don’t keep focusing on the mistake. That’ll only remind people of the past.
Instead, increase your visibility and move on to a different topic. Announce a new company initiative, or let the public know about a new product that’s in the works. Let the old talk die down and give your audience something new to talk about. Speak, create videos, publish content and get the word out about the new thing. The old thing will die on its own.
This six step process will help you handle just about any brand, reputation or PR crisis that comes your way.