Crises happen every day. Whether big or small, they can have an immediate impact on the brand and reputation of the business and its leaders. And with the arrival of social media, more people are able to voice their opinions in a public forum when something happens, which can add fuel to an already raging fire as people within the organization work to control the flames.
It’s not a matter of if but when a crisis will happen to a business, which means all businesses need to have a plan in place to deal with a crisis. That preparation can determine whether your company will succeed or fail in the future. But it also depends on how proactive you are before a crisis hits. Using social media, the same place where many may be calling you out, to build up your business can save you from starting from scratch in a crisis.
Creating a Positive Online Presence
Media Minefield Founder and CEO, Kristi Piehl, says this: “Social media is the new front door to your business.” With so much information readily available on the internet, most people will do research before buying from a company. Besides a company’s website, the organization’s social media channels can be one of the greatest sources of information about the business.
Take this opportunity to build up your brand and your reputation in a positive way before a crisis hits. A proactive social media presence is like reputation armor for a brand and executive. Create a positive narrative—put your values, your mission, your culture and your purpose front and center and allow the public to form an opinion based on those things. Creating a positive perception, compared to a negative one or none at all, will make it easier for the public, customers and consumers to forgive and move on when a bad situation comes around.
Using Social Media During a Crisis
When a crisis hits, you don’t want to be scrambling trying to figure out every single piece of the plan on the spot. Laying out some simple things beforehand, like the team who’s going to be called in and how you plan to respond, can help you stop a situation that’s bubbling up.
Whether social media has created the situation or is making it worse, responding as soon as possible is imperative. Use the channels available to you—your social media accounts and your website—to spread your message. Even without every single piece of information, being transparent and authentic will go a long way toward overcoming the crisis at hand.
Accountability During a Crisis
Every response to a crisis needs to contain two things: an apology and a promise of action. Take accountability for what’s happened and let the public know what steps you’re taking to ensure it won’t happen again. If they sense any sort of defensiveness, nothing else you say will matter. When drafting your statement, decide who within the company is going to put their name on it. The name and the title matter. It needs to be someone—an executive—in the company who can enact change. It’s easy to think of a business as the bad guy in a crisis situation, even if it’s not completely their fault. It’s much easier to see the human element of an actual person behind the brand, and it will be easier to forgive that person and move on.
Spreading your response on social media is just the beginning. Your crisis plan should include how and when you’re responding to comments and messages across the platforms. Designate one person, or a team of people, to respond how you see fit. Any responses to comments should contain the same messaging as your public statement for consistency. Make sure all messaging, whether internal or external, stays consistent and be prepared for anything internal to become external. Whatever the best tactic is for the company, it should be consistent throughout the crisis.
Executives’ Roles in a Crisis
Just as with a business, it’s easier to access executives in today’s world of social media. Customers, the media and members of the general public can send you a message through any social media platform day or night, and it’s a tactic they can use in a crisis situation. Just like with businesses, leaders can leverage the power of social media to build up their own armor before something bad happens. Be proactive and tell your story. Let people get to know who you are as a person so they don’t jump to the wrong conclusions when you’re dealing with a crisis.
As a leader, your voice and actions will be amplified during a crisis. A crisis plan should include how executives are responding to a situation. Messages and comments should be monitored and responded to in the same way they are on the businesses’ pages. Be authentic in your replies and use the armor you’ve built up to weather the storm.
Bad things happen to good people and businesses. It’s a fact of life in today’s world. But a crisis doesn’t have to mean the end of your career or business. Be proactive today. Start by making or reviewing your crisis plan. Build up your brand and reputation using what you can control on social media to get a head start before something bad happens. If you’re proactive and prepared, social media can be an asset instead of a liability, and the crisis will just be a blip on the radar.