In my years as a digital media advertising professional, I’ve seen my fair share of social media crisis play out and have had the opportunity to be a part of crisis management for some leading brands in Sri Lanka.
Whether it’s an internal team or your agency team working on the task at hand it’s important for cool heads to prevail and start looking towards the immediate next step.
There are a few aspects that come into play when a crisis hits a brand: from social listening to formulate a response, to monitoring the online sentiment, preparation of periodic reports, etc.. a lot of things need to happen in a short period of time before you can even assess the impact or being to think about recovery.
Here are some best practices, and mistakes for brands and agencies alike to learn from:
Building the team
It’s essential to put together a team that will be able to work exclusively on the crisis at hand. When putting this team together it’s always a good idea to have a diverse set of individuals. People who are able to leave their biases behind and can identify/relate to the consumer who is affected by or as in many cases causes the crisis. It’s also important to have people with opposing views on the matter to be able to simulate the thought process and mind map the conversations that are happening online.
The problem that comes when this is not the case is that when the whole team is loyal to the brand, or are biased towards or against one side all your communications from response to reports will be skewed towards the bias of the group, which could end up alienating and/or preventing meaningful dialogue with the brand and the group(s) affected by or are creating the crisis.
The ethics vs. strategic perspective
When the team or the decision makers of the brand are solely focused on the business and restoring the brand’s image or sales, the efforts might not consider the ethical perspective, or might not reflect the best practices that a socially responsible brand would adhere to in the eyes of a consumer or bystanders.
What might seem like a sound recovery/counter strategy in the eyes of the brand might seem unethical to a random concerned consumer. It’s not their job to interpret a brands motive or intentions. So be prepared for a backlash, always.
No response is better than a bad response
Always test your responses with a sample of every possible stakeholder before putting out a communication. Listen to what they have to say, especially the negative comments. A lot of the time I see the brand having no choice but to stick by their story even through a backlash because they put out the communication without testing with stakeholders with negative sentiments.
When you test things you have the opportunity to avoid a pain point or prepare a response. What I see happening is: out of frustration and desperation resulted by lack of preparation brands and admins get defensive and eventually go on the offense.
So on some occasions, the best strategy is not to respond or have a prepared statement for legal purposes and continually monitor the situation.
If you have no fault you have nothing to defend.
FOR GOODNESS SAKE KEEP YOUR AGENCY IN THE LOOP AND BE TRUTHFULLY WITH THEM!
Sign an NDA if you have to, but if you keep your agency or team working on the situation in the dark none of their efforts will yield results because they are working on assumptions.