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Do You Have A Social Crisis Strategy? How To Prep Your Business For A Blunder

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. But the tough can only get going if the tough made some plans beforehand. Otherwise the tough find themselves up a creek with no paddle. Now I’m mixing my metaphors. To put it plainly:

socialcrisis_blogIf you don’t have a social media crisis-control strategy – and a means to track how successful that strategy is as you go along – you are putting your business in dire danger.

Every brand, especially enterprise brands, will face a social media disaster at some point. But if you have a plan in place for turning the tide, it’s possible to recover from almost any gaffe or attack.

Having this strategy mapped out will help you stay calm and respond rationally in times of crisis. We’ve seen brands who haven’t had a plan in place fail, and we’ve seen brands who were ready for a crisis respond in a quick and collected manner, like KitchenAid did when an employee sent an offensive Tweet during the 2012 election. This attention to detail helped save their brand image, and made them look like the model for corporate responsibility.


So what should you do to help mitigate the damage in times of crisis? This guide will help you ask the right questions, and create the right process.

Create an action plan for when disaster strikes. 

Quote_by_Ben_Okri_on_the_Memorial_Gates_at_the_Hyde_Park_Corner_end_of_Constitution_Hill_in_London,_UK This allows you to address crises as quickly as humanly possible. Lay out a series of conditions that detail when/how you will or won’t respond to an attack on social media. Create a set of scenarios and a set of responses for each one. This can follow a very basic model, with three central components:

  • A hypothetical “what” (what happened that needs a response plan).
  • A “how” (how we’ll react to this).
  • A “why” (why you’re reacting this way).

This model can be applied to any situation, and makes it easy to focus and stay consistent with your brand messaging and values.

For instance, if your company is being directly attacked or threatened by another company encroaching on your space (what), you could set a policy of responding within 12 hours by acknowledging the issue in specific ways detailed within the action plan (the how) for reasons that are also explained within the action plan (the why). This will prevent unnecessary/time-consuming conversations when the crisis occurs, since the course of action and reasoning behind it has been already decided and agreed upon by the major players within your org.

Or, if it’s a personal attack on one of your employees/executive team members (what), your how might be to take no action at all, and refuse to fan the flames on social media. If this your organization’s policy, a well-crafted how will be especially important in your action plan, since non-action is a tough plan to stick with for most people and orgs when a crisis actually does happen.

Set up data collections around your brand handle + hashtags. 

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Make sure you’re keeping track of what’s buzzing around your brand on the major social media networks by tracking your handle and any key brand hashtags or terms associated with your brand.

Set your reports to run regularly. Create daily email alerts so that you’re reminded to see how your brand’s doing holistically without having to think about it. There could be a conversation happening about your brand or your brand’s campaign that you wouldn’t know about by simply scanning your feed or fan page wall. Most of us aren’t robots and don’t have the stamina to be glued to Twitter and Facebook 24 hours a day, even if we could. Setting up automatic reports makes sure you’re never left in the dark.

Grow your panic tree. 

A “panic tree” is a branched chart that displays who people should call first when something goes down.

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For instance, your first point of contact in case of crisis might be your PR Manager. But if you can’t reach your PR Manager, you should reach out to your marketing manager. And if you can’t reach her, you call…you catch my drift.

Another important component of a panic tree is that it lays out the sequence management should be contacted in. For instance, the PR Manager contacts the Director of Communications, who contacts the CMO who contacts CEO. This makes inter-company communication go a lot more smoothly when a crisis arises.

Maintain consistent messaging on all fronts. 

Make sure that your reaction to the crisis is strong and clear on all your major social media channels.

No one should click away from any of your social media profiles without an understanding of how you feel and what your stance is.

You shouldn’t have one POV or voice on Facebook and another one on Twitter. Consistency is king here.

And remember that you have two choices in your method of addressing the crisis on social media: you can release your statement on social media, as Target’s CMO did on LinkedIn not so long ago, or you can use social media as the vehicle for directing traffic towards a formal statement on your blog/site. Well, I guess I lied. To really hammer the message in, you can always do both.

Try a no-delete policy.

This isn’t the answer for every brand, but it might be right for yours. 

If someone posts something bad on your wall, feed, or comment areas, consider responding in a timely manner with a series of messages that downplay and diffuse the situation instead of simply removing the gnarly feedback. 

This makes you seem transparent, and gives you an opportunity to show the public that you own mistakes and remedy them as quickly as you can – always a good rep for a brand to build.

Adhere to the three-response rule. 

One caveat for the “no-delete” policy is that you must set a limit for yourself. For example, you might set a guideline to only engage with “trolls” three times before you stop responding.

This makes people feel like they’re being acknowledged and their concerns are being taken seriously, without going into battle mode and making things worse than they already are.

If the conflict can’t be resolved with three public acknowledgments, take the interaction to DM, email or offline in some form. And never leave the dialogue until a resolution has been reached.

Got tips?

What are your social media crisis strategies? What did I miss? Let me know in the comments below. And jump on this free 14-day trial so that you’re the first one to know when your brand’s in danger – and how well it’s recovering, too.

Lucy Hitz

I’m the Head of Marketing Communications here at Simply Measured, where I'm responsible for our content program, social media marketing, PR, and comarketing ventures. I love yoga, The X-Files, peaty scotch, hiking, and poetry. If I were a social media channel, I’d want to be Instagram, but I think I’m Twitter.

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