PR Crisis Management in a Social World

stressed woman on a laptop managing pr crisis for brand

It happens every day—a new PR crisis. In fact, it’s always happened. But with social media it seems to happen even more because we hear about so many of them within minutes. In fact, a PR crisis can spread internationally over social media within an hour.

Whether it’s a passenger being dragged off an airplane or a major fashion magazine posting an article about how a woman lost weight without exercise (because she had cancer), companies make mistakes. Or they’re the victims of others’ mistakes. And the result is bad press.

The Cold Reality of a Social Media Crisis

No matter how it happens, the reality of a PR crisis is that 53% of companies’ share prices don’t reach pre-crisis levels even after a year. It can be the most frustrating experience for companies who only mean well, and end up losing brand trust because of someone else’s mistake or an employee’s poor decision-making.

So how should companies prepare for the inevitable? By using best practices to create a plan and ensuring you have the technology needed to prevent or immediately respond to a crisis. The fact is that most companies respond within 21 hours, but on social media you should be responding within an hour. In addition, it’s critical to reply in a way that satisfies customers, instead of angering them.

How to Respond and Regain Brand Trust

It’s not uncommon for a company’s immediate crisis response to disappoint consumers. Often, they make the mistake of apologizing insincerely, addressing their brand fans in a cold tone or even blaming the victims for their error.

As a best practice, any apology should be sincere, humble, transparent and empathetic. As you form a response strategy, it helps to have technology that can access every social channel and gauge public sentiment within minutes. If you can quickly take the pulse of your audience, you can lead by empathizing with how people are feeling. Beyond that, be sure to mention how the company plans to avoid a similar crisis in the future, and support any victims of the current crisis immediately.

It’s particularly important to take action or compensate the victims. A Carey School of Business study revealed that 37% of customers were satisfied with a service response when they received a refund or credit. When the business added an apology to this, 74% of customers were satisfied. One can assume that this kind of response would be even more valuable in the face of a full-blown PR crisis.

For instance, did an airline bump people from a flight, causing them to miss connecting flights and lose thousands of dollars on a pre-paid cruise or tour? If so, the airline should reimburse every single one of those passengers. The price they’ll pay for that will be far less than the plummeting stock price that results from a poor response.  It can also be an opportunity to increase loyalty and admiration for the brand.

How companies can use social media to their advantage:

  • Using the right tone of voice is key. Companies should invite genuine conversation about the issue and quickly respond to all social media feedback. It’s important to use a serious tone if the crisis is serious—no jokes or emoticons. Comments that use plain language and convey sincere remorse tend to get the best responses.
  • Another best practice is to use mature social media pros to respond. Companies can train first responders to be professional and calm, and avoid jokes and sarcasm. For example, when one event ticket marketplace left Michigan’s Upper Peninsula off its map, a user mentioned this and an employee responded with “we got the important part of Michigan, isn’t that good enough?” This understandably caused even more anger among followers.
  • Modern organizations often use social listening and social media command center technology to automatically gauge sentiment and responses to their crisis on every platform. They then use the most popular responses and platforms to inform their tone and strategy moving forward.
  • By taking advantage of an integrated social platform and customer email tools within CRM, crisis response teams can orchestrate a mass, quick response across channels and reach affected customers. 
  • With advanced CRM technology, customer service teams can easily and quickly reconfigure the system to capture any new necessary information when a crisis erupts. For instance, if customers call in, email or post about the fact that they’re offended by a tweet, commercial, or other PR issue, the team can reconfigure the fields that service reps will be required to fill in. In other words, if there’s a common complaint about food poisoning at a fast food restaurant it becomes a coded field.

How to Prevent a PR Crisis

Ideally, companies should try to prevent a PR crisis altogether by using smart social media technology. For instance, automated social listening, command center technology, and the integration of social media and CRM can pick up on negative sentiment and trends early before they reach crisis level.

For instance, if a commercial is offending consumers, and it’s only been shown once, a company can remove it before it becomes a full-scale brand disaster. Or if a company makes an unfortunate tweet referencing a national tragedy to promote their product, that tweet can be dealt with more quickly. By staying tuned in to social sentiment and customer reactions regarding your brand, you’ll be equipped to act with speed and decisiveness when a potential crisis arises.

Given the impact of a plummeting stock price, hearings, subpoenas and lawsuits, the cost of investing in smart social technology to get ahead of a PR crisis is small, considering that it can save a company’s brand and bottom line.

How Astute Helps

Astute’s suite of solutions help protect your brand and bottom line in the face of a serious PR crisis, and can even prevent a crisis before it escalates:

  • Use Astute Social to search for conversations relevant to your brand, including and beyond major social platforms. Identify sentiment and trends before they become a full-blown crisis, and get notified of hot-button issues right away.
  • With Astute Social Command Center, get a complete picture of follower interactions, post and influencer reach, sentiment, and trends across all social platforms. 
  • Astute Agent can integrate calls, emails, messages, and posts. This empowers your team to orchestrate a mass, quick response across all channels and reach affected customers.
  • Never miss a critical, flagged post with the Astute Social mobile app. Your team can manage engagement and respond to customer complaints on-the-go and after hours.

See how Astute can help protect your brand. Request a demo of our software.

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