How to deal with social media crises


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Protect your brand’s reputation from social media crises with an online management strategy

Once upon a time in a world without social media crises, companies had almost total control over their brand’s reputation; building it and then managing and protecting it.

With a combination of PR experts and ‘spin doctors’, campaigns could be devised behind boardrooms’ closed doors and announced to the world in the fanfare of a media launch.

Because people did not have 24/7 instant access to news, negative publicity took longer to gain momentum, giving companies time to formulate a plan of action.

But that was then, this is now the digital world and it has made many aspects of traditional PR seem like a fairy story.

The internet gives information at the touch of a button, social media has heralded the might of the citizen journalist, turned us all into critics/reviewers and given power to influencers and bloggers.

Social media has changed PR from an announcement based undertaking to a conversation between the company and the public.

Companies can no longer hide away in their ivory towers, the boardroom doors have had to be flung open wide because business owners have to ‘get down and dirty’ and engage with their customers.

There is still room in the mix for traditional (offline) PR, however, your brand in this digital age requires an online reputation management strategy to ensure effective crisis management.

Now, when your company puts a foot wrong, it is immediately exposed to the viral effect of the internet with trolls and customers’ negative comments exposing your brand and its reputation to damage.

So, how do you avert PR disasters and deal with social media crises? How do you shield your brand’s reputation from being tarnished?

Well, as your brand’s reputation exists online, your business must have an online presence which must be monitored, managed and maintained to avoid risk.

International crisis management consultant Melissa Agnes who has helped global brands and government agencies prevent and manage a wide range of issues and crises, is a woman to listen too.

In her blog, podcast and books, including the Social Media Management Toolkit, she outlines the importance of online management and how to use social media to promote and protect your brand.

I agree with Melissa’s opinion that crisis management is all about communications – you must communicate the right (and informed) message, at the right time, across the right channels to your audience.

However, as online communication is a two-way street, you must listen to what your audience is saying to you and respond appropriately and in ‘real time’.

Ignore a late night or weekend tweet of genuine complaint at your peril. Just watch how a negative tweet can virally spiral out of control when it is not responded to promptly.

Taking on board Melissa’s expert advice, here are the pointers I would use for developing an online reputation management strategy:

1-Draw up a clear plan, do not let it gather dust on a shelf, implement it, then revise and update it regularly.

2-Monitor your online presence. Yes, this can be time consuming but there are many tools to help, e.g. Google Analytics & Hootsuite etc.

3-No knee jerk reactions to social media PR disasters. Those in charge of the plan need to evaluate the potential impact of each comment, decide which ones require a response and then devise a reasoned but prompt response.

4-DO NOT ignore negative social media mentions in the hope they will go away, engage with customers, listen to their complaints and converse with them.

5-Be human. Do not hide behind the corporate image. People want to deal with the people behind the brand.

6-Be sincere and honest and apologise meaningfully not just with words but with action that backs up your intent.

Getting social media crisis management right….

How the American Red Cross handled a ‘Tweetgate’ of their own making in 2011 is a classic example of getting it right.

Not only did they diffuse any negative backlash with their honest and humorous response, they received increased donations and favourable attention on Twitter.

An employee’s incorrect use of Hootsuite saw her tweeting a personal message on the Red Cross Twitter account.

The tweet – “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer… when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd” – was not the most appropriate message for a humanitarian organisation.

However, the tweeted response – “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.” – was favourably received.

And the company’s statement: “we are an organization that deals with life-changing disasters and this wasn’t one of them” showed a reasoned approach and is an example of a good crisis management plan.

And what not to do……..

An episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares US 2013 saw the outspoken celebrity chef quit from working with Amy’s Baking Company as owner Amy screamed at her customers.

Viewers took to social media to voice their outrage over Amy who began ‘screaming’ at them online, responding to each and every tweet and Facebook comment and review with abuse and threats.

While Amy’s Baking Company went from 2,000 to 45,000+ Facebook fans, it was for all the wrong reasons.

People just wanted to have all the outrageous commentary in their social media newsfeeds and Amy and became a laughing stock of the internet.

I will leave the last word to Melissa Agnes with her very helpful  infographic.

10 New Rules of Crisis Communications - Infographic

The 10 New Rules of Crisis Communications – Infographic by Melissa Agnes

Do you have any crisis management tips to share? How would you deal with a social media disaster?

Please let me know by leaving a comment.

Author: Aideen Sutton


6 Examples of Social Media Crises – What can we learn

Social Media Crisis Planning

Social Media Crises – the good, the bad and the ugly

Posted on March 27, 2015, in Brand Reputation, Content Marketing, Social Media and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Nice one… love the use of case studies!


    • Hello Samantha, thank you, I am glad you enjoyed the blog post. The whole idea of using case studies and academic references is to show our readers that as we do not know it all, it is easy to find people online who are experts in their fields and how you can adapt their knowledge to suit your own needs.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent stuff…very informative


    • Hello Raza, Thanks very much for taking the time to read my second blog. So glad you enjoyed it and found it informative as that means that I am doing something right!


  3. Loved reading your blog. I’ll have to change tack. Hanging up the phone and going to the pub doesn’t seem to work. Well done Aileen.


    • Well Ray, if any of your customers are in the pub, you could try listening to them and responding to them in an honest way! Definitely don’t hang up the phone on them and when they take to social media to complain about you, DO NOT ignore them!
      Thanks for your positive comments.


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