Saturday, 11 July 2015

Losing wool - dealing with a PR crisis on Social Media

What happens in Vegas, used to stay in Vegas. Not anymore as it now lives on forever thanks to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Periscope. 

Dealing with a PR crisis on social media (i.e. KFC South Africa twice in May) can go one of two ways - you can either tame the beast, turn it into your new fluffy pet, or you can feed the beast and make matters worse by ignoring it. In this post we take a closer look at the do's and don'ts of dealing with the crises. 

There are two rookie mistakes any company can make. The first is to not address the PR disaster and hope it will go away on its own. Just because you are not talking about it, or addressing it in a Press release instead of on Social Media doesn't mean it won't go viral.  The Facebook post by Mfumo Bamuza posted on 7 May 2015, was shared 3, 383 times to date and the second video from 22 May 2015 have been viewed 485, 480 times to date.

The second mistake is reacting without having the adequate facts at your disposal.  You don't want to end up being the primary victim if this was a hoax. Right out of the gate you need to assess the crisis situation so that there is no room for speculation.

You want to avoid apologizing or taking the blame for something that had nothing to do with you.
  KFC South Africa did a fantastic job of first investigating the allegations that were posted on Facebook and then they responded on social media.  

Ask yourself - What type of Crisis is this?

Establish if this is an operational crises regarding a service you provide, a crises relating directly to one of your products, stores, franchises, employees, stakeholders or sponsorship. It could also be a confrontation crises that attacked the integrity of your Brand with accusations of racism, sexism, deformation, criticising your integrity or HR practice. Once you've established how your brand is involved you can come up with an action plan and then communicate this to both the media and the public. 

How and where to Communicate? 

Good Communication is Vital during a Social Media PR Crises. You need to communicate with both the media and consumers in order to prevent it from influencing your daily operations and other vital communication activities. The online space where you respond is also important. You cannot respond to a viral YouTube video with a Press Release. If Facebook is where the action is, then it makes sense to address the crises on Facebook.

Follow these steps:

1)  Respond on the arena where the crises was created. I.E. respond with a film if the crises was a YouTube video. 

2) Create a dedicated online space to deal with the crises. You want to avoid the risk of negative comments flooding your Facebook page or Twitter feed that is dedicated for other purposes like customer support. 
3) Make it easy to find i.e. "Brand X responds" and highlight it to the top of your platform.

4) Your message: If you were in the wrong - apologize. Describe the steps that have already been taken to address this and what you will do to prevent this from reoccurring. Keep your message simple and to the point.

The angry mob will soon find something else to be angry about and you'll notice that the negative comments are starting to fall away after a few days. 

Preparing for Murphy's Law

What can go wrong - will go wrong. This is not necessarily a negative mind-set to have as failing to plan is planning to fail. It's always better to anticipate a crises and be on the offense. The absolute key is having a social media crisis protocol in place that you distribute to all parties involved.

No one can control a 
rogue employee but you should make your staff sign a
Social Media policy. The purpose of the policy is to provide your staff with guidelines to eliminate any confusion concerning 
the use of social media in the workplace. As the employer you cannot guide every interaction (i.e. inappropriate language, videos or images, explicit content) but you can get your staff to follow your guidelines to avoid disciplinary action for them and a Social Media crises for you. 

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