Crisis is a word that all businesses fear. In the good old days – a crisis has to be managed by engaging traditional media and publications from an early onset to minimize the impact on the business’s brand and reputation. However, in today’s digital age – most crisis situations often rear their heads through social media. With the potential to go viral within minutes and attacks coming from sources worldwide, managers should rethink their crisis management strategies and whether their tools are adequate in dealing with them.
Monitoring and tracking social media crises can be a tricky business. Speed is key. By the time it takes to establish a plan and formulate a response, it would often have been too late; social media would have already blown the situation out of proportion. Crisis really tests the management of an organization and co-ordination within the company. While many companies turn to communication and PR experts to offer insights, why not do it yourself? Circus Social has several tips to share on the 4 phases of managing a crisis.
Pre-Empting a Crisis
Businesses can proactively prepare for a crisis by monitoring specific keywords and discussions online. Particularly on social media, certain keywords would raise alarm bells. For a manufacturing firm, it could be ‘defect’, for a courier delivery service it would be ‘delay’. Regardless, being able to track and monitor the usage of such keywords in relation to your business is vital to stay a step ahead and give you sufficient time to react. This does not mean you have to get your staff to crawl the web 24/7. A smarter way would be to set up alerts that go straight to your inbox when thresholds on certain keyword usage have been reached.
Identify Sources & Channels
So a crisis has occurred, what next? Quick identification of the bearer of bad news is essential to decide the right course of action. While companies develop crisis roadmaps in handling crises, no two crises are the same and require tact in handling. For example, if the majority of your ‘bad press’ is being shared quickly on Twitter amongst influential users with large follower bases – you know you need to spread your holding messages and responses quickly and effectively through the same medium as well. Try and identify influential users (those with high Klout scores) so you can focus your efforts efficiently.
The social sphere is extremely vast with a wide variety of posts. To get through the clutter, there are useful filters to find impactful and viral posts. Impact score of the post indicates the reach of the post (in terms of likes, shares, comments) and the traction score, indicates the virality. Filtering by impact helps you identify the posts that matter the most, both to the public and for your brand. Another useful tool would be an associative word cloud to help spot other related topics that might have been overlooked.
While some experts advocate not taking action and letting the social media storm die down as rapidly as it came, more often than not, it would be wise to acknowledge the issue. If an employee is accused of wrongdoing, or there has been any form of lapses in procedures, some form of accountability and acknowledgement of the issue will pacify the public. Better yet, inform them that investigations are ongoing. You could even win over new fans by providing timely and relevant information, turning a crisis into an opportunity.
Once traction of the negative post dies down, (hopefully) the worst is over. However, it is still important to be accountable to the public and your customers. At this stage, do release the results of your investigations and be sure to implement measures to prevent a repeat crisis. Also, analyze the traction of past posts and identify and thank fans who have been supportive. It would also be a good time to adjust alerts and thresholds based on what has been learned.