Prepare for the worst, plan for the best
Preparing for the worst online
We all know preparation is the key to success, and that includes your online presence. We’ve seen it happen many times–a brand posts something questionable or offensive, or goes through a crisis offline and it turns into a social media nightmare.
It sucks, but it’s likely to happen to any company with the presence of such a robust community online. And of course, you hope nothing will ever happen–but it’s smart to be prepared for the worst.
At Walker Publicity, we’ve helped guide clients through crises online and beyond. We know how crucial it is to have a unifying, transparent message shared with your internal team, customers, and more. We’re sharing some of our best practices for common situations to help you better deal with and prepare for a crisis.
The main takeaway? Take a deep breath. Be calm, cool, and collected. It’s better to face the challenge head on than burying your head in the sand.
How to respond to an irate customer
Often customers take to venting their disappointments on social media and review sites. It’s tempting to just avoid responding, but other potential customers will see those comments and may choose to not do business with you due to lack of response. First of all: take a deep breath. It’s easy to get defensive about your business (and we know that some people will never be satisfied). But try taking a step back and seeing things from the customer’s perspective. You can apologize that they didn’t have a good experience without necessarily admitting fault. Offer to make it right, if at all possible. And be sure whoever is handling your reviews and social media responses is up-to-date on policies, specials, and other customer-facing issues.
We’ve found that some customers will update their reviews online if you reach out and work things out–and that could turn both them other potential customers into loyal fans!
How to respond to a situation online
There could be someone accusing an employee of harassment, or a social media post doesn’t strike the right chord. It’s tempting to scramble to get a response, but it’s important to get a coherent, consistent response together first. Don’t wait days to address the problem online, as that seems like you’re trying to sweep the problem under the rug. First, get the main players together and on the same page; your communications folks and higher management need to be briefed on the situation and the unifying message that’ll go out. Try to respond within 24 hours with humility and accountability.
How to create a crisis communication plan
There are 4 main parts to creating a crisis plan. In addition to consistency and transparency, assembling an A-team and preparation are key.
- Gather your crisis management team. Get your communications folks, top development people, and any customer-facing teammembers assembled. You’ll need all these minds together to help identify your audience and craft responses.
- Create a communication hierarchy. Identify the people who will be monitoring for potential crises, then pass that along through the team. Then, configure the flow of information when responding to the crisis.
- Target potential risks and respond. It’s good practice to come up with a list of potential crises and come up with action plans and responses. Plus, it will be helpful to draw from in the event of a real situation. Include protocol for responding on social media and to the media.
- Remember the stakeholders. The stakeholders could be different in each situation–the general public, customers, staff, vendors, community members, etc. Think about how different audiences require different information and different platforms to reach them. And of course, remember that transparency and authenticity to those stakeholders are key.
No one wants a crisis to come up, but it’s always better to prepare just in case. If you’d like some help on creating a crisis communication plan, Walker Publicity is always here to offer our advice and expertise.
Some final takeaways
- Transparency is always welcome.
- Be consistent and unified.
- Respond swiftly and decisively–scrambling to come up with an answer in real time leaves room for error.
- Accept the fact that we are all humans, and you will likely have a mistake or situation come up in-person or online. People respond much better to companies and brands who own their mistakes quickly and demonstrate understanding.
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