For the next three weeks we are going to be talking about the dreaded PR crisis, especially as they unfold in the online world. We’ll be joined for the next two weeks by author Ann Marie van den Hurk, who has quite literally written the book on Social Media Crisis Communications. For this week though, we wanted to set the table by establishing five things you should NEVER do when you find yourself getting embroiled in an uncomfortable online situation with your audience. After establishing what not to do, we will talk with Ann Marie over the next two weeks about some ideas that will help you make sure your company is ready just in case that awful PR crisis conundrum becomes something you need to handle.
1. The “wait for it to die out” tactic
Sometimes waiting it out seems like the best idea when a big storm is raging. Companies will let their social media accounts go quiet if criticism is raining down upon them based upon the hope that the frustration or rage will peter out eventually. This may have been somewhat effective in the days before social media (although it would not have been recommended) but in today’s era of instant gratification, going silent will get you into trouble. It will simply look like you don’t care.
2. The argument tactic
In response to criticism, some companies online will argue, which can result in some fairly ugly exchanges. Unless you are facing charges that are clearly falsified, your default reaction needs to be based on the concept that your customer’s beef is legitimate. If the complaint is in grey territory, the best option is to say something like, “Can you please send me a personal message with more detail about this issue?” Sometimes that will be enough to scare the person away anyway.
3. The Blocking/Banning tactic
This tactic was tried recently by a clothing company on Facebook. After posting a meme that did not seem aligned with the brand’s message, the company came under fairly fierce attack from their loyal customers. Instead of dealing with the criticism, the company began banning people from the Facebook page, including people who had been “fans” for quite some time. Even though you may not see the comments on your page anymore, this kind of move will just enable the bad PR bubble to expand to lots of personal pages. Bad idea!
4. The “destroying the evidence” tactic
Closely akin to blocking or banning users is simply deleting the negative comment. This is much easier to do on Facebook or in a blog’s comment section than it is on Twitter, for example. Even though it may seem like you are getting rid of the problem, it’s highly probable this will only make things worse. Knowing their comment may get deleted, many people now take a screen shot of their comment as soon as they leave it. If the comment gets deleted they can post the screen shot, not only reiterating their initial complaint but also proving you are deleting comments.
5. The “let’s all respond” tactic
Finally, you may find that without a plan in place, five different people respond from your company to try to deal with the problem. This can make things worse if you all are running off the cuff. You might even end up saying contradictory things, which can be dastardly for your company’s reputation.
These are all tactics that companies tend to resort to when they do not have a plan to guide them. That is one of the things we will be talking about over the next two weeks, so stay tuned!
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/27199770@N04/3087662640 via Creative Commons
5 Tips Friday How NOT to Handle a PR Crisis