We like to think that no kind of PR crisis will never happen to us, but in reality, it can happen to anyone. And the fact of the matter is that as our social media use increases, these crises are actually more likely to be social in nature. As long as you’re using social media, you’re risking that chance. The flip-side, however, is that the risk is well worth it to be able to promote your business and connect with your patrons.
Let’s say, though, that you do find yourself caught up in a PR crisis – social media or otherwise. What do you do?
Hopefully you’ve got someone on your PR team who is trained to manage a crisis. That’s certainly a useful and recommended resource, but what about also using social media?
This might seem like a strange idea at first. After all, social media might very well be what got you into trouble in the first place. But keep in mind that social media is also where people will be discussing your business (and, yes, your crisis, as well).
By now, you’re hopefully aware that using social CRM solutions enables you to monitor social conversations happening around your brand. In times of crisis, this ability is incredibly useful.
For example, let’s look at one of the most recent high-profile PR crises. During the first presidential debate in October, an offensive tweet was sent out from @KitchenAidUSA‘s account that made insensitive remarks about President Obama’s late grandmother. The tweet went out to roughly 24,000 followers before it was deleted.
That could have been devastating for the brand. Instead, Cynthia Soledad, head of KitchenAid, took to social media to start doing damage control. Though there was lots of conversation happening about the KitchenAid brand, Soledad began responding to negative comments, offering to speak on-record and, though she wasn’t the person who had sent the rogue tweet, she took full responsibility for what had happened.
While a lot of comments mentioned @KitchenAidUSA, social CRM solutions could help to easily find the ones that didn’t mention by handle – only by brand or topic. In leveraging that ability, anyone who is under duress when it comes to a PR crisis can monitor the entire conversation.
Something else that Soledad did was to target influential blogs, bloggers, and Twitter users from the start. This was a wise move because those in a place of influence have the power to quickly pass their influential messages on to the masses (think Mashable). If they can see that you’re properly handling the situation quickly, that’s going to be a much more impressive message for them to pass on with regard to your brand.
Of course, in the midst of a PR crisis, you don’t have a lot of time to research influencers. Fortunately, social CRM solutions can include features to help you determine how much social influence a user has. For example, if you wrote something about my company, I could run analytics on you right from my dashboard to find out how influential you are and, thus, whether I should get into damage-control mode. I’m going to be less concerned about you if your message is only reaching fifty or a hundred people than I am if it’s reaching 150,000.
One might argue that not having these solutions in place to help manage a PR crisis could cause far-reaching damage to your brand. Companies like Domino’s Pizza have found this out the hard way.
In 2009, a video of two Domino’s employees was uploaded to YouTube and almost instantly went viral – but not in the good way. The video showed the employees doing some rather unsavory and stomach-turning things to a sandwich before it went out for delivery.
It took too long for Domino’s to realize what was going on. Why? They didn’t have a social media strategy in place. They weren’t even using social media. In fact, they had a PR and social media crisis on their hands before they even knew what was going on. Still, once they got their bearings, they jumped to life and saved the company from what could have perhaps been a total downfall.
Had they been using social media and social CRM solutions, they could have seen the talk surrounding the video start to pick up. They could have nipped the crisis in the bud. They could have started to identify influencers and reach out to set the record straight.
This seemingly small detail may have made all the difference in the longevity of the crisis, though. Now, two weeks after the KitchenAid debacle, people haven’t forgotten, but they’ve moved on. The crisis itself didn’t last very long because it was handled in a timely fashion. Domino’s, while no longer in crisis mode, continues to be a prime example of what not to do.
These kinds of PR crises, which increasingly involve social media, are more common than we might think. They are seen by more people when they happen to high-profile businesses, but that doesn’t mean they don’t happen to small businesses too. No matter who you are, if you have a business, you’re at risk for a PR crisis.
Pro-tip: Invest in some kind of social CRM solution. Learn to use it, and create a plan for what you will do with it should you ever have to go into crisis mode.
Do you use social CRM for crisis management? What are some of your top tips? Please let us know in the comments!
Great article Vijay.
With so many businesses taking to social media and so many potential customers just one click away, it really is the best way of averting a PR crisis; regardless of whether social media was to blame in the first place. With sites available on phones, tablets and other portable devices, it is now easier than ever to fall foul to a mistake like the ones mentioned above.
Cynthia Soledad was quick to take the first step in admitting the company’s wrong doing. If you don’t come clean, things are just going to get worse.