This week some of the team was fortunate enough to attend Social Media Week Sydney, a wonderful collaborative event featuring some of the world’s greatest social media minds.
Our personal highlight – a crisis management workshop put together by some of the best in the business. Its focus; to ensure a strong, unified team approach when an incident occurs.
The fictional scenario involved us/the unlucky social media managers, being in charge of the social media presence for a local pet shop. An incident occurred where a disgruntled former employee had recorded a video of himself criticising the company, accusing them of slave labour, animal abuse and poor hygiene practices. He had uploaded the video to YouTube and it had gone viral. Our task – as social media gatekeepers – was to deal with the wave of complaints, questions and criticism that had been directed at the brand.
These are the lessons we learned;
Get in a room together – ASAP
When crisis breaks, it’s crucial to have all hands on deck. With a wave of information circulating via email, phone calls and social media, it’s so important to get together and establish a clear, concise message. During this workshop, we were fortunate enough to share the room with the company’s legal advisor, communications manager and director. This approach enabled a consistent approach towards brand messaging, and the support of legal became particularly useful when dealing with sticky situations.
Disseminate a Holding Statement
Before you do anything else, a message needs to go out – preferably via social media. It needs to acknowledge that something has happened, and that the brand is committed to keeping its community informed and updated. This holding statement metaphorically ‘buys you some time’, until we are able to investigate further and determine a method for dealing with the crisis.
Pause your auto-scheduler
You might have scheduled posts ready to go out on Buffer, Hootsuite, or with some of your other automation software. Stop this from happening immediately. There’s nothing worse than a cute picture of a cat and ‘Happy Friday’ going out in the middle of a crisis.
As soon as possible, begin responding to enquiries, complaints and concerns which have been left on social media. Begin with the platforms which have the largest reach (likely to be Facebook and Twitter for most brands) and address the most serious concerns first. The key is to get as many conversations as possible offline – for example, contacting your call centre and away from the public domain. Offline conversations don’t damage the brand in the same way that online conversations do.
It’s vital that social media managers continue to adhere to best practice guidelines, for example not deleting posts unless they are offensive or constitute harassment.
Issue an official statement
Social media managers should work closely with the media relations team to ensure that an official statement is issued within 24 hours, or sooner. Depending on the severity of the issue, this may be picked up by media outlets, so it’s important that the message is grammatically and factually correct and provides a full and frank acknowledgement of the incident.
And that’s just the first 24 hours. The crisis process is long and challenging, and for social media managers, the task of rebuilding a community will take some time.
The key lesson – be prepared. Have the right people in your communications team, and ensure that should a crisis break, everybody knows their roles. If you’re lucky enough to have an external agency looking after your social media presence, ensure that you have discussed a crisis strategy with them to ensure that their responses are in-line with the brand’s expectations.
Quick Brown Pixel provides expert advice for crisis and risk management situations. We help businesses establish crisis plans and conduct workshops to ensure communications teams are armed with best-practice techniques should an incident occur. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.