Whether one of your employees gets wrapped up in a scandal or you have a disgruntled customer ranting about you online, knowing how to communicate with the public during a crisis is imperative and can ensure the survival of your business. And with more than 2.81 billion people around the world using social media, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and your website are the platforms you’ll want to use to carry out your crisis management plan. Social media is a real-time communications tool and one of the fastest ways to communicate any urgent messages to all of the people who are passionate about your brand. Follow this process for navigating your situation and coming out on top.
While I was managing crisis communications for a company that a reality docuseries was based on, the company experienced an influx of social media communication. There were concerns about some of the situations that happened on the television show and fans had a lot of complaints. To ensure that we were transparent and honest, we responded to every single tweet, direct message, comment, and email.
We also experienced fake social media accounts being generated and used to slander the company. We started off by responding to messages from those accounts but once we determined it was slander from Internet trolls, those accounts were blocked and deleted.
If you determine that a person communicating with you is an Internet troll, is abusive, or is breaking the social media rules that you have set, do not engage. If they are persistent and abusive, you can block and report them.
Publicly addressing the situation immediately on social media is crucial. This will help you, your website, and any other online forum where your customers may be spending time. The best thing to do, in any situation, is to be in control of your messaging and break any news before the public breaks the news for you. Immediate communication will also help you control the narrative of the crisis.
Carefully Craft Your Message
Respond in kind to the message you received. Each social media comment, tweet, message, or however else they communicated with you, should be answered on the same platform. If the communication was made so that anyone can see, make sure to respond publicly.
If you require private information from someone or you need to have a more detailed conversation, take the conversation to a private space like your direct messages, emails, or on the phone. Make sure to let them know in the public space, where the initial comment is, that you are reaching out to discuss this matter further. Document all of the comments and messages that come in, including what social media platform they came in on, date, who sent them, and the details of the communication.
Educate Your Customers
Just last month, there was an announcement from local health authorities that there were customers at my client’s place of business who were COVID-19 positive. As soon as we learned of that news, we made a statement on social media and provided links to the official announcement as well as links to other verified resources about signs and symptoms.
Providing resources for where consumers can learn more about the crisis and the truth is important. If your crisis is COVID-19 related, this can include links to your local health authority’s website or resource page or a link to information from your local government. It’s important to make sure that the links you provide are going to a valid source of information and not to any fake news reports. You can also write a blog post or LinkedIn article talking about the current situation and provide any myth-busting facts to rumors that might be circulating.
Make Yourself Accessible
Being available to answer questions from your customers is important and will help you maintain and strengthen their trust. The ways you can be available are by answering social media comments and private messages, responding to emails in a timely manner, and making yourself available for phone calls.
Often times when there are major service disruptions to public transit, those companies are available for real-time communication on social media. People will message these companies with questions about routing, service and various other feedback and inquiries. When the transportation company responds in real-time, while providing social media updates about service, it helps to maintain the trust of the community.
Our ongoing social media engagement and transparency will always help to build brand loyalty. Honesty is always the best policy and ensuring that you are being truthful and authentic will always help you and your company stand out. Every crisis will eventually end and if you are prepared, it will help you eloquently move through the crisis with more confidence.
Written by Blair Kaplan Venables. Have you read?
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