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Being unsurprised by the unexpected is integral to operating a business. Being unprepared, however, is not.

If you find yourself in the middle of a public relations crisis, specifically on social media, I recommend you seek the services of a professional social media management company. If you decide to tackle it yourself, be aware of some necessary steps to preserve your brand. (Please note that this is not legal advice, nor should it be taken as legal counsel and that each situation varies according to the situation and parties involved.)

For clarity’s sake, I will go through this action plan as if another company has written a negative expose on your business and is using its social platforms to defame you. Of the information being shared, 70% is false but 30% could be argued as true. This metric is useful, as often times a PR crisis will come out of a small mistake that gets blown into something larger by mismanagement of the situation.

Regardless of whether claims are true or false, know how to react by following these critical steps:

1. Separate logic from emotion.

This is the most important part of any crisis management plan, and it cannot be stressed enough. If you are personally getting upset or offended by the claims brought forward by a stranger, ex-client or third party, step away and hire someone else to handle it. It does not matter whether the claims are factual or not, you must keep a consistent level of calm — as you can do much more damage with what you say than what you omit. It is not enough to cool off and come back to it later; it’s integral that critical moments are handled by a calm voice 100% of the time in order to de-escalate all parties involved.

2. Address the issue directly.

Address the situation clearly and quickly. If there is any part of their claim that could be construed as true or that a third party may construe as true, address it clearly and address it once. There is no room for emotion when handling a PR crisis. Empathy can go a long way in mitigating a crisis before it happens, but once it’s become a large enough issue, leave emotion out of it entirely and stick with the facts.

Think back to Cracker Barrel’s PR nightmare with “Brad’s Wife.” Bradley Reid Byrd posted to Cracker Barrel’s Facebook page with a simple inquiry: Why did you fire my wife? Cracker Barrel never issued a statement and the social media community rallied to the cause. A handful of choice hashtags were born, including #JusticeForBradsWife #BradsWifeMatters and #NotMyCountryStore. The lack of direct attention to the subject turned into a viral PR situation, one that is still played upon frequently through several mediums, including a petition directed at Cracker Barrel and an active Facebook page mostly full of trolling activists.

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Shutterstock

Being unsurprised by the unexpected is integral to operating a business. Being unprepared, however, is not.

If you find yourself in the middle of a public relations crisis, specifically on social media, I recommend you seek the services of a professional social media management company. If you decide to tackle it yourself, be aware of some necessary steps to preserve your brand. (Please note that this is not legal advice, nor should it be taken as legal counsel and that each situation varies according to the situation and parties involved.)

For clarity’s sake, I will go through this action plan as if another company has written a negative expose on your business and is using its social platforms to defame you. Of the information being shared, 70% is false but 30% could be argued as true. This metric is useful, as often times a PR crisis will come out of a small mistake that gets blown into something larger by mismanagement of the situation.

Regardless of whether claims are true or false, know how to react by following these critical steps:

1. Separate logic from emotion.

This is the most important part of any crisis management plan, and it cannot be stressed enough. If you are personally getting upset or offended by the claims brought forward by a stranger, ex-client or third party, step away and hire someone else to handle it. It does not matter whether the claims are factual or not, you must keep a consistent level of calm — as you can do much more damage with what you say than what you omit. It is not enough to cool off and come back to it later; it’s integral that critical moments are handled by a calm voice 100% of the time in order to de-escalate all parties involved.

2. Address the issue directly.

Address the situation clearly and quickly. If there is any part of their claim that could be construed as true or that a third party may construe as true, address it clearly and address it once. There is no room for emotion when handling a PR crisis. Empathy can go a long way in mitigating a crisis before it happens, but once it’s become a large enough issue, leave emotion out of it entirely and stick with the facts.

Think back to Cracker Barrel’s PR nightmare with “Brad’s Wife.” Bradley Reid Byrd posted to Cracker Barrel’s Facebook page with a simple inquiry: Why did you fire my wife? Cracker Barrel never issued a statement and the social media community rallied to the cause. A handful of choice hashtags were born, including #JusticeForBradsWife #BradsWifeMatters and #NotMyCountryStore. The lack of direct attention to the subject turned into a viral PR situation, one that is still played upon frequently through several mediums, including a petition directed at Cracker Barrel and an active Facebook page mostly full of trolling activists.

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