10 ways to overcome a social media crisis by Scott Monty
Great food, sponsors, & bright minds all under one roof
Noah’s Event Center provided a relaxed atmosphere conducive for networking where members from both DFWSEM and Social Media Dallas got a chance to converse among free food and drinks. Collin Street Bakery (yes, the famous fruit cake bakery) was a generous sponsor of the event and provided tasty sandwiches of all different varieties and even brought cookies for those in the audience with a sweet tooth. A handful of attendees could be overheard saying just how good the food was and mentioning how they’ll be buying more fruit cakes this holiday season.
Representatives from LocalHub and Actiance (sponsors) were in attendance as well, showing off their latest product features. At the end of the event, Actiance provided one lucky winner with a new Fitbit.
So much in the news to talk about
The subject was Digital Crisis Communications: A Survival Guide. Scott quickly informed us that even though he prepared a great presentation weeks in advance, he ripped it apart in the last 24 hours to discuss a plethora of PR fiascos that happened over the past 48 hours (think Reddit CEO Ellen Pao, Paula Deen’s son posing as brownface, United Airlines, Wall Street, Donald Trump, Subway and Jared Fogle, and Bill Cosby, to name a few).
Two kinds of crises
Scott first pointed out there are two different kinds of crises. While you may not see either coming, you can control your response.
The first type of crisis is unplanned. These are things you often don’t have control over, such as natural disasters, industrial accidents, or acts of terrorism.
The second type is a foreseen or emerging crisis. They’re still unexpected, but you have more control over them when they happen. This type of crisis includes things like product recalls, security breaches and hacks, rogue employees (38% of employees will say negative things about an employer after being laid off), dissatisfied customers combined with stupid marketing and PR decisions.
Again, you can’t always keep a crisis from happening, but you can control how you react. Scott gave us 10 real world tips for dealing with a crisis that any team, big or small, can implement.
1. Stop doing whatever is causing the crisis
Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way: In order to solve a problem, you have to stop it first. It doesn’t matter who you are, being a popular celebrity won’t protect you from online communications crisis in the age of social media.
Case in point: Donald Trump can’t seem to stop sticking his foot in his mouth. Then again, he doesn’t care. If he did, he would have changed his hairstyle years ago. Popularity doesn’t equal respect, and it certainly doesn’t protect you from a publicity crisis.
2. During a crisis, know who your influencers are and where you can turn for help
Instead of listening to her core audience and influencers, Ellen Pao, the Interim CEO of Reddit turned them against her after she fired one of Reddit’s most beloved employees (and making several other questionable decisions). These decisions backfired on her, resulting in the Reddit community turning against her. It wasn’t until 200,000 people petitioned to have her fired that she THEN issued a written apology.
3. Listen and monitor
To stay on top of a crisis, you need to constantly monitor what’s been said online about your brand and anything it’s associated with. Scott mentioned how Google alerts used to be the best tool for monitoring but sadly, it does not work near as smoothly as it once did. Instead, try tools like Hootsuite or Zignal Labs for monitoring. Zignal provides alerts when a certain threshold of tweets about a topic is reached and has the ability to create reports at your desired frequency. This is especially helpful during a crisis so you know where to focus your attention.
4. Say something! Silence spurs rumors
Subway didn’t make a statement until three hours after authorities raided Jared Fogle’s house. That certainly didn’t help the number of rumors that sprouted up during that time.
On the other hand, Westjet has done a great job responding on social media quickly and transparently to six bomb threats.
Confirm YYJ received bomb threat against our aircraft #WS1709. Worked with regulatory & law enforcement agencies and deemed not credible.
— WestJet (@WestJet) July 3, 2015
Safety remains our top priority. We will continue to be vigilant to keep our guests and our crews safe.
— WestJet (@WestJet) July 2, 2015
— WestJet (@WestJet) July 2, 2015
The PR and social media teams at Westjet were brave enough to let people know exactly what was going on and they treated passengers like humans. Heck, they posted about a bomb threat on Twitter. Not many airlines would do that.
5. Craft your message for the appropriate medium
Remember the Domino’s Youtube incident of 2009? Though Domino’s didn’t respond until 48 hours later, they responded using the medium where the crisis happened (Youtube) and directly addressed their audience on social media.
Scott also mentioned you shouldn’t react to a crisis on your blog by responding in the comments. Most people have lost respect for the comments section because it’s full of junk – so what’s the solution?
There are some new tools that have promising features for brands. Genius.com, a site that was originally created to annotate music, is now branching into articles. Brands can rewrite articles and include annotations to use as responses in crisis. Scott gave a solid example of a Quicken Loans article rewritten using Genius.
6. Remember, journalists are watching
Journalists are always watching and waiting for the next story. Use this to your advantage by monitoring them and communicating with them. Scott recommended a few tools to make this easier:
- Muckrack – Receive a daily roundup email of what journalists are saying about your search terms
- Bioischanged.com – Receive daily emails showing who has changed their bio on Twitter. This is a good indicator that someone has changed jobs or something is happening. Use these tools as clues to find figure out what’s about to happen.
- Use Twitter’s lists feature to follow specific groups of people. Lists will cut down on noise and allow you to track people who are important to your line of work.
7. Communicate from your people, NOT your logos
In any crisis, people want to hear from someone they can relate to who talks to them like a human. Don’t make the mistake of communicating from your brand, instead, communication should come directly from a real person on behalf of the brand.
Scott gave a great case study from his time at Ford, showing how he resolved a crisis in less than 24 hours by communicating directly with the audience on behalf of Ford.
8. Integrate all channels – paid, earned and owned
Most companies default to only using their PR team in a time of crisis, but this can result in inconsistent brand messaging and even bigger problems. Don’t forget your paid media is running and may need to be paused while you resolve the crisis.
Also, consider the long-term SEO impact that mentioning specific brand or product names will have. Scott pointed out at Ford, during an engine recall, they debated naming the engine because of the potential impact it would have on future searches.
9. Take ownership and admit your mistakes
This may seem obvious but it took 200,000 signatures before Ellen Pao issued an apology to the Reddit community. When apologizing, make it as timely and genuine as possible.
10. Prepare your employees
Last but not least, Scott talked about the importance of preparing your employees for diffusing a crisis. Your employees are your best asset in a crisis. They have connections that you and your company don’t have and can be useful in communicating with your audience.
Your employees should know exactly what to do in a time of crisis as well as how to help. Use a tool like Gaggleamp to set up pre-approved messages with talking points for your employees.
Scott ended with this final piece of advice: Ultimately, you need to keep your head about you during a crisis.
Well said, Scott.
It will be tough to follow Scott’s presentation, but next month Brett Tabke & Joe Laratro will be in Dallas for our first double speaker offering of the year. SEO and Social Virtual Reality will have you marveling at the multi-billion dollar gamble some search giants are making on devices never seen before. Don’t miss it!
Joel Widmer helps businesses turn their expertise into authority. He’s the founder of Fluxe Digital Marketing, a marketing shop that specializes in world-class content marketing and recently moved to Dallas from Nashville.