Key Takeaways: The 4Rs of Crisis Management

  1. Readiness: Prepare for crises with comprehensive plans, employee training, and regular drills.
  2. Response: Act quickly with clear communication, decisive action, and effective resource allocation.
  3. Recovery: Restore normalcy through careful planning, resource management, and support for affected individuals.
  4. Review: Analyze the crisis response to identify lessons learned and improve future crisis management plans.

Understanding Crisis Management on Social Media

Social media & online notifications are so much fun. As someone who manages several online brands and accounts, I love getting those little dings from Sprout Social, watching my mobile light up, or seeing the red numbers on Facebook go sky high.

That is, until I’m pushed into crisis management mode.

You know, like when someone leaves a scathing review about your product, one of your employees, or the way you conduct your Facebook page (see below).

stupid letter games The 4 Rs Of Crisis Management

Luckily the above complaint about “fluffy social media” wasn’t posted on one of our client’s pages … but it COULD happen to anyone.

That’s why anyone who manages online properties should know the four Rs of crisis management!

Crisis Management Means Having A Plan

I have to have a prelude to the four Rs because the first R (spoiler alert) is “React.”

I hate to react.

I know it’s impossible to prepare for everything, but I feel it’s important to be proactive versus reactive where possible.

This is where your plan comes into play; for our clients we call it the ‘Risk & Response Plan‘ – and it’s essential during times of crisis.

Sure, the photo above seems petty, but your other audience members are taking note when they see peer-to-peer comments and recommendations. A recent Trust in Advertising Report released by Nielsen shows that 84% of customers globally trust peer-to-peer brand and product recommendations, an increase of 6% since the 2007.

And in my case, I am sometimes working with public companies that have shareholders reaching out via social platforms when financials and stock prices aren’t doing well.

Flying by the seat of your pants while managing a billion-dollar brand can get you fired in a jiffy. So, in those situations, you MUST be prepared.

How so? By:

  • Having prepared responses for known or foreseen issues (but not using them word-for-word when getting the same complaint … remember the Home Depot crisis where they tweeted the same, canned statement over and over again and looked like an uncaring robot?)
  • Having a call tree — or a list of who to reach out to immediately following a crisis — to implement
  • Being genuine and honest (and NOT being defensive) when planning for possible crises, AND when answering complaints online

By the time a crisis rears its ugly head, it’s often too late to repair the damage. And the reputation you have been building for months, years, or even decades, can be mangled in mere minutes.

Let’s hope that’s not the case, though, and see how the four Rs of crisis management may help you during your darkest hours …

four Rs of crisis management The 4 Rs Of Crisis Management


Let’s hope you’ve followed my prelude advice and have some sort of plan in place. If not, it’s okay. Keep calm.

First things first, if you don’t have a plan in place, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who should I contact regarding this complaint?
  2. Do I know this person? Are they a “regular” or someone new to the community?
  3. Do I know of similar/other issues with this (product/service)?
  4. What’s the best way to respond?


By now you should have:

  1. Contacted the appropriate people.
  2. Thought about how to respond based on conversations with your team (or yourself).

It’s not time to respond yet. You still need to:

  1. Research the user: Can you tell if they’re a legit community member, customer, or client? Did they name a specific employee, product, or service in their complaint? Did they include any visuals or links?
  2. Research the issue: You should know if you’ve had similar issues in the past. Also, if the user uploaded a picture or link, be sure you view and/or read everything they’ve given as proof. READ. EVERY. LINE. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen community managers respond without reading the WHOLE complaint or the links associated with it.
  3. Google Search: If you’re still at a loss for what to say, Google “social media crisis no-nos” or “social media crisis wins” to see how others got themselves out of hot water.
  4. Does this person have a habit of leaving bad reviews/comments (aka: Are they a social media troll?): This is rare, and very hard to prove. If you can’t 100% absolutely without a doubt prove that the complainer is a troll, then you can’t delete or ignore their comment, and it’s best to respond as if it’s your best customer standing there giving you the business.

giving us the business 768x1024 The 4 Rs Of Crisis Management

[Read my post script for a funny story about this cup!]


The two biggest things to remember during a crisis are speed and communication …

You want to reply as quickly as possible (while not ignoring the first two Rs), and you want to stay in communication with your disatisfied customer. Don’t have an answer by end of day? Try:

“Hey, Brooke. I wanted to let you know that I don’t have an answer yet, but we’re working hard to get you one. I’ll reach out as soon as I hear something.”

And I can tell you from personal experience, that both blog commenters and shareholders alike appreciate when you validate their feelings:

“@User1234 I’m so sorry to hear we didn’t provide X for you. May I contact you by phone to get this resolved?”

“I’m sorry I don’t have information for you right now. Did you see our latest press release regarding X? [LINK]“

“We were not aware of this situation – thank you for bringing it to our attention. I’m taking it to our internal team right now to get resolved.”

Notice I never said “I apologize”? Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like that statement is a cop out; it’s a “sorry I’m not sorry” kinda thing. I could be wrong, but I’M SORRY is a very powerful statement.

The other thing you’ll notice is that even if I don’t have an answer, I let them know that I’m working on one, or where the latest information can be found regarding the issue.

9 times out of 10 — and I’m totally serious here — your complainers just want to be heard. A response is all they need, along with some sort of validation (I’m sorry … that sucks … we messed up … we’re working on it … thank you for letting us know).

I have this one shareholder who tweets me (and by “me” I mean our client) weekly when the stock prices are down to complain. He’s always satisfied with my response, even if it’s just, “I don’t have anything to report, but promise to personally tag you when our next release is out!”

And then guess what? I DO tag him. Follow up is key.


We’ve already been over I’m sorry versus I apologize. So I won’t get on my soap box about that.

But, there is something to say about being authentic online. I have an extremely astute bullshit meter. I know when someone is saying sorry but going through the motions.

My feeling is that if you can’t have empathy, and REALLY understand what it means to get out of your little world and know that someone on the other side is really going through some shiz, that you SHOULD NOT be the person handling online media sites or crisis management.

Admitting mistakes is one of the most transparent and authentic things you can do. And it goes something like this:

“We totally screwed up.”

“Well, this is embarrassing …”

“I completely dropped the ball. So sorry!”

“To tell you the truth, that was not my best moment.”

“I did a stupid thing. And I’m really sorry about it.”

The ways to show remorse are endless if you’re open minded, willing, real, and understand that your community will love you more for being honest than being perfect.

P – RRRR Fect Crisis Management

crisis management The 4 Rs Of Crisis Management

So remember, for P-RRRR Fect crisis management it’s:


Then …

React, Research, Respond, Remorse.

Crisis Communication Best Practices

  • Establish a Clear Communication Hierarchy: Designate specific roles and responsibilities within the communication team to ensure streamlined and effective messaging.
  • Designate Spokespersons: Choose trained individuals to represent the organization and handle media relations, ensuring consistent and credible communication.
  • Maintain Consistent Messaging: Ensure all communications are aligned and reflect the organization’s stance and actions accurately to avoid confusion and misinformation.
  • Utilize Multiple Channels: Use various communication channels, including social media, press releases, and internal communication platforms, to reach all stakeholders promptly.
  • Real-Time Updates: Provide continuous updates to keep stakeholders informed about the progress and actions being taken to manage the crisis.

Bonus: Implementing a Crisis Management Framework

To prevent any crisis management disasters, having a well-designed framework can work wonders.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Integrate Crisis Management into Corporate Culture: Embed crisis management practices into the organizational culture to ensure preparedness at all levels.
  • Top-Down Support: Ensure commitment and resource allocation from senior leadership to support crisis management initiatives.
  • Regular Updates and Tests: Continuously update the crisis management plans and conduct regular tests and simulations to keep the strategies relevant and effective.
  • Cross-Functional Collaboration: Involve various departments in crisis management planning to ensure comprehensive coverage and coordinated efforts during a crisis.
  • Continuous Improvement: Use insights from post-crisis reviews to refine and enhance the crisis management framework, making the organization more resilient over time.

Wrapping Up

Did I miss any? What would you add? Let me know in the comments section below!

P.S.: So the story behind the “Thank you for giving us the business!” cup is that one of my most favorite restaurants in Dallas has this wording printed on thier stuff.

It cracks me up so much that when I was in Dallas back in March I brought two of the cups home with me. I guess no one has told them it’s thanks for YOUR business … I certainly hope no one is giving them THE BUSINESS – their food is too good for that!

But hey, you should thank peeps for giving you the business too. That’s how we learn. icon smile The 4 Rs Of Crisis Management

See you in the social sphere!

Read more: This is a Defining Moment; Will You Squander It?