News today – whether good or bad – breaks immediately and spreads instantly, due to the constant stream of information from social media. Generally, it is a good thing that knowledge can spread so easily and readily to larger extents than ever before. The openness between social networks and mainstream news provides the option for nearly anyone to report the news. For business, however, this provides a new angle that requires planning and preparation.

In any company, there is the possibility for crisis (large, or small scale) that will need to be managed. Despite best efforts to avoid these issues, businesses need to have a plan in place to deal with them.

Crisis Management

By preparing a crisis strategy in advance, the long and short-term effects of a crisis can be mitigated. Employing social media as a part of this strategy is an excellent, and at this point necessary, step. Some people are hesitant to use social media, believing it will lead to a crisis situation, as opposed to help prevent one; however, social media users are already free to discuss companies and brands on social networks and by being aware of these discussions, businesses can potentially pre-empt any discontent.

To this end, it is important for businesses to monitor the company name, c-level executives at the company and products among many others. By monitoring a company’s reputation online businesses gain the ability to prevent minor confusion or upset from spiraling into a full-blown PR nightmare.

There are of course times when prevention isn’t possible, and problems occur. The actions a business takes once “bad news” has hit the media (traditional or via social media) are crucial. Social networks are intended to create a 2-way dialogue between businesses and individuals and when crisis situations occur, these dialogues hold a lot of weight. Brushing aside problems or questions will no doubt be circulated, as our conversations are, to an extent, no longer private. This also means not giving a minor complaint due attention can potentially unfold into a widespread PR problem. Similarly, these issues can live on in infamy when people search for a business.

In an article for the Huffington Post, Amy Neumann explains –

“These are things your customers want during a crisis:

  1. Feeling like I’m heard.
  2. Feeling like my opinion matters.
  3. Feeling like someone hears me and will do something.”

Having a well-established social media presence will help in these matters – an established relationship with users will help make feedback feel more genuine as opposed to a blanket corporate statement.

Once a resolution has been determined and is conveyed to users and consumers, thanking them for their patience and understanding is crucial. By treating consumers who interact in social media with genuine interest and respect, the story will hopefully lead away from the negative action that took place, and instead highlight the honest response from the business behind it.

Sources: The Huffington Post, Role of Social Media in Crisis Communication