We’ve Got a Problem: How to Communicate During Troublesome Times

Whether it’s your website’s technical malfunction, a customer service issue gone viral or the introduction of an unfriendly government regulation, there will come a time in every company’s life when something goes wrong

And in those moments, your customers, the press and the rest of your industry will be looking at how you respond.

You’ll definitely have a knee-jerk reaction – and in this era of immediacy, it’s all too easy to jump on your favorite social media platform and word vomit your personal position. But this is exactly what you should not do.

That said, immediacy is not a bad thing, especially because of social media, where news spreads around the globe in a matter of minutes. Working quickly to craft a statement or provide a solution will be paramount to success – but that does not mean you should be in such a rush that you sacrifice careful thoughtfulness.

They say when the going gets tough, the tough get going – and where you should get going is straight to your communications team and public relations agency to craft a plan. Here’s what you should keep in mind.

Don’t Panic (or, at least, don’t panic in public)

It’s not that you can’t panic at all – you can (and most likely will) panic. Internally. Not on social media, not in a press release, and absolutely not in front of reporters. When you respond, you’ll want to be calm, collected and measured – not having a meltdown in front of the world.

After you’ve taken a breath and had a glass of water (or something stronger than water, we won’t judge), you should activate your crisis team – executives, your communications department, your PR agency – and put out a holding statement until you have had time to craft a proper response.

Get Your Thoughts Together

Once the initial emotions of shock, anger, or sadness (perhaps all three?) have passed, you’ll need to sit down with your team and investigate what the facts of the incident are and what this means for your business. Go over every possibility, every point – you need to know all of it in order to work through it. Once you’ve considered exactly what this crisis means for your company, then you can begin to determine the company’s stance.

Understand What Your Customers Expect to Hear

But before you put a statement together, you’ll also need to consider what your customers are expecting. Depending on the situation, they may want refunds, a major discount or special code to be used in the future – but what they expect is a genuine apology and assurance that action is being taken so that this does not happen again in the future.

Put yourself in their shoes and think about how you would feel if a business you loved made a mistake or was in a perilous situation similar to what your company is facing.

Find the Middle Ground

With both the business thinking and customer thinking in mind, work to find the middle ground. Consider what sort of solution is the appropriate course of action for your business. Once your positioning and solution have been determined, it’s time to start writing a statement in earnest.

Prepare Your Statement(s) – And Notify the Larger Team

Consider the types of statements you’ll need to confront this crisis and take control of the narrative. This could be a press conference, a press release, posts across social media channels, emails to your customers, app notifications – and it likely will be a mixture of some or even all of these options, depending on the situation. Once you know the channels through which you’re responding, then make sure to draft, edit and polish suitably.

Once these drafts are ready to go, be sure to brief the rest of the company before you blast the statements out. Your people will be dealing with customers or clients (or both!) getting in touch after your statement is out in the world, and they should be prepared for how to respond based on the company’s position.

Keep Monitoring

Once you’ve published your statement, use social and media monitoring tools to keep tabs on how your solutions are sitting with customers, and if they are working the way you hoped. Fingers crossed everything goes smoothly – but if the conversation turns negative, then you should work to address all concerns before attempting to move on from the issue.

Though no business ever wants to have a crisis on its hands, in the event that you walk into the office and find yourself in the middle of one, it’s important to have a plan for what happens in crisis mode. With enough deep breaths, facts and  level-headed thinking, your company can weather this and emerge from it stronger – and even in a way that may win you new customers. It is possible – so long as you don’t panic.

Concerned about stumbling instead of stepping forward? We’re here for you – reach out to us by emailing h[email protected] 

 

Crisis 101: Picking up the pieces after a social media meltdown

Social media is a very powerful tool many brands use today to tell stories and engage with their audience. With this power also comes great responsibility, and brands need to be accountable for the messages they broadcast – be it positive or negative.

We’ve seen brands like Coca-Cola and Oreo absolutely ace at their social media strategy, and then you have a restaurant like Amy’s Baking Company that seem to have fallen miles from grace. While nobody plans for a social media disaster, what’s more important is how to successfully bounce back if and when it happens.

Keep calm and don’t freak out

It’s anyone’s fair game to say whatever they like about you – particularly on social media. Our first instinct will be to get really defensive and we get it, it’s your brand and you have to protect it. But going on a rant on social media is like listening and watching a person scream through a loud-hailer – it’s annoying and embarrassing and can tarnish the brand you’ve worked so hard to build. Be smart, keep calm and breathe!

Check out this classic social media rant from Tinder.

Never claim you were hacked

It’s 2016 and everyone can see through that lie. It’s obvious you’ve just flopped on social media and running away from your mistakes will only anger the public further and escalate the disaster.

Case in point: Amy’s Baking Company

Example of a social media crisis

Example of a bad response to a social media crisis

 

Think before you react

It’s great that your first reaction is to explain what happened. However, it’s important to stop and think carefully about your response as a social media crisis can easily put you in a state of panic.

Structure your official response, be clear and act quickly as a lot can happen on social media in a very short span of time.

Own up to your mistakes

Nobody’s perfect and everyone makes mistakes. Instead of staying silent or claiming that you were hacked, turn it around with a sincere apology. Your fans will appreciate the humility.

Here’s how Expedia apologised and engaged with its customers.

Inject some humour

Trying to turn it around with some humour can work wonders and is a creative way to pick up the pieces. However, it is largely dependant on the severity of the situation and if you’ve hit a nerve on a sensitive issue it’s probably best to handle it with utmost austerity.

Here’s how Burger King handled the negative backlash regarding their fries:

Albeit self-deprecating, the humour was appreciated.

Open up the conversation

In moving forward after the apology, brands can react positively by opening up conversations. In response to a huge social media backlash, Dominos set up a Twitter account to discuss what went wrong. The two-sided communication proved to be a success for them as they were honest and transparent.

 

A social media disaster is not the end of the world for your brand – what really matters is how you handle it. Some brands bounce back from the backlash because of their ability to repair the damage, while others never do. Always be prepared and have a backup plan.

Need help with your social media strategy? Get in touch with us at [email protected].