When a crisis hits, the last thing your business needs is for negative information to spread like wildfire on the Internet, through the media, or among your customers.
Unfortunately, social media is more than capable of disseminating bad PR is all of those ways – and doing it at a pace that leaves your company struggling to keep up.
But social media can also be a valuable resource for crisis PR. According to Alterian, a leading social media monitoring firm, the key social media and crisis PR is to proactively evaluate and address negative publicity before it has the chance to significantly damage your brand.
With that in mind, Alterian suggests a three-step process for leveraging the power of social media in a crisis:
- Assess the severity of the crisis. When your company receives negative feedback, your first response should be to determine its severity and impact. Use social media monitoring to assess whether the complaint is valid and how many people are voicing it: One, many, or an entire online community? In the worse case scenario, you will discover that the complaint has found PR traction in multiple online communities. Based on the scope of the crisis, you'll need to determine what action your company needs to take.
- Engage customers. The most inappropriate response to a crisis is no response at all. Even if only a handful of people are expressing negative feedback about your company, it's still in your best interest to use social media to engage them as soon as possible. Transparency is king in a social media crisis response. Be as honest and genuine as possible – acknowledge the customer's complaint and describe the steps you will take to remedy the situation.
- Implement social media metrics. Social media gives your company a tremendous opportunity to evaluate both the short-term and long-term impact of a crisis. As a business leader or PR specialist, you probably don't have the skills to conduct your own social media monitoring and analysis. But social media monitoring companies do – and they can give your business the tools you need to evaluate everything from web analytics to online conversation identification and consumer sentiment. The data you gather from social media monitoring gauges the ongoing impact of the crisis PR initiatives and improves the quality of your entire PR plan on a go-forward basis.