How to Use Social Media to Control
Brand Messaging During a Crisis
Running a business with integrity is important. However, it’s not always possible to prevent crises and scandals, especially as a company grows. Everyone makes mistakes, and with more employees comes more opportunities for mistakes.
With that said, experiencing a crisis doesn’t have to mean that a company’s reputation will be destroyed. The right PR management strategy can help reduce public outrage and control the damage. Social media can be an important tool for controlling brand messaging during a crisis.
Different Types of Brand Crises
There are many ways a company can find itself in trouble. A new product comes out that is found to be harmful to consumers. A data breach occurs. A social media post is tone-deaf or outright offensive. An employee is found behaving unethically. A scandal comes to light. A social crisis occurs, and your company doesn’t respond appropriately.
It’s easy to think that your organization could never tweet something insensitive or be involved in a scandal. But it’s not possible to control the actions of every individual involved in an organization and things can slip through the cracks. You might accidentally hire someone unethical or someone just makes a bad judgment call — it happens.
What will set you apart from other companies that have faced scandals is how you deal with the situation. If you double down or ignore the issue, then your company will lose a lot of customer loyalty. If you respond poorly, you’ll also see a hit to your reputation.
Responding appropriately on social media channels can be challenging, but it’s very important for controlling brand messaging and doing damage control.
Social Media: Real-Time Communication
One of the most important benefits of social media is the ability to communicate with your customer base in real time. You can post to different channels simultaneously and ensure that your messaging is consistent across those channels.
People want to hear from brands quickly after a crisis. People expect a response right away, and at least within 24 hours. It’s a good idea to pause any scheduled posts and focus only on posts relating to the crisis. Other posts that were previously scheduled might look tacky and inappropriate in light of the situation.
Think of social media as a place for customer service. When something goes wrong, communication is key. If you’re addressing a large group of customers at once, social media is the most efficient way to provide customer service support.
Opportunity for Transparency
Reaching your audience on social media gives you an important opportunity for transparency. No one appreciates it when a brand talks down to them or says what they think people want them to say. Being transparent will help your brand rebuild any trust that was lost due to the crisis.
Precautions to Consider
Social media is a powerful tool for positive communication, but it can also make a crisis worse if it’s not used properly. While it can be used for controlling brand messaging and improving customer loyalty, it can also backfire.
It’s important to remember that there’s no way to “control” public discussion. You have to respond in the best way you can, address customers’ concerns, and prioritize safety above all.
Making excuses or “setting the record straight” is unlikely to help your brand move on from a crisis. Instead, your messaging needs to show that you own the mistake. Making things right with your customers includes taking responsibility for the crisis.
When using social media, it’s important to never retaliate. You don’t have to respond to every comment. Staying truthful, transparent, and authentic without getting defensive is key for successfully managing a crisis on social media.
Have a Crisis Plan in Place
A crisis will happen when you’re least expecting it. The longer a company is in business, the more likely it is that a PR disaster will occur. That’s why it’s so important to be proactive and create a crisis management plan that you can put into action right away. That way, you can use social media to help your brand instead of hurting it.
Creating a crisis plan doesn’t mean that you’re resigned to a PR crisis. It simply means that your organizational leaders are smart enough to understand that things happen. Creating a plan in advance will allow you to respond quickly and appropriately, which is key for reputation management in the wake of a crisis. Getting ahead of negative publicity will help you control the narrative.
Your crisis plan will allow you to be in control of your brand messaging. You’ll have time to be thoughtful about how you will respond on social media, instead of rushing your messaging and potentially making everything worse. When it comes to business crises, the best policy is to expect the worst and hope for the best!