It’s every company’s worst nightmare – your business is in the news, and not for something good. Maybe it’s the departure of a high-profile executive, an accusation of racism, sexism or homophobia or simply a misunderstanding that escalated quickly. The public eye can turn on you in a flash, and it’s important to have a calm, calculated approach to crises, especially when they occur on or are gaining traction due to social media.
Public perception is everything. The odds that your business will face a massively publicized social media firestorm are slim, but crisis management skills are essential for problems big and small that can affect you in the short term or even permanently. With clients across dozens of industries, we’ve dealt with social media crisis situations all across the board.
In these situations, it’s important to prepare both proactively and reactively. In more detail, a reactive response is what you might use if someone of influence engages with your brand on social media regarding your less-than-perfect health inspection score. At this point, you should decide the reach of the news – you may want to prepare a reactive social media comment, and decide the length to which you want to go to remediate the situation offline.
Remember, in these very public times, the customer is always right – but your best move is to take this communication offline. You should also prepare statements for people within the business themselves, such as servers, cashiers and other hourly employees who might face abrupt, in-person questions from customers and the media. Nobody within the organization should be commenting on social media, except for the appointed “speaker of the house.”
Proactive measures are also essential to social media crisis planning, but may not be necessary to use. You might use a proactive response if you’re facing or anticipate facing a barrage of social media comments. For instance, post and maintain at the top of social media pages statements that clarify, show compassion and educate or inform.
Both proactive and reactive responses give you the opportunity to control the story and the message. Except in cases of an extreme situation, it may not be necessary to take the message outside of the channel on which the interaction first took place – for example, if a Facebook post is igniting commentary, there’s no need to blast out reactionary tweets.
Your reputation is everything – especially in franchising, where individual locations are a reflection of the parent company. Protect yourself by thinking ahead.
A version of this article by All Points PR President Jamie Izaks ran previously in PR News.