The Short Version To Handling Social Media PR Crises

It ain’t like it used to be…way back in 2007.

Back then if something blew up (figuratively or literally) within your company, you had time to prepare your cold, calculated, lawyer-driven statement for the media—just in time for the 6 O’Clock News.

Now, PR crises happen just as frequently—but the reaction is not by TV viewers or radio listeners or newspaper readers—it’s on Twitter and Facebook and every blog written that day.

Often, before social media—the best reaction was no reaction.

Often, before social media—you’d fax out your low-liability, “not really our fault and here’s why”, “this is an isolated incident and not an indication of anything more significant” statement. It’d be cold, corporate, and be just-good-enough to get people to forget and move on to the next hot topic.

In 2012, you had better have the tools in place to listen to what’s being said on social media—because someday you’re going to need them. You need to know instantaneously what’s being said and what the reaction is to “the incident”, so you know how to measure your response.

You should also already have a plan in place—a plan that wasn’t written prior to the emergence of social media. That plan should already be approved by your company bigwigs—so that anyone—at anytime, day or night—can resolve an immediate PR crisis. And your entire marketing team should be trained in how to create the response, who to contact for approval, and how/when is most appropriate to deliver the apology or statement.

A Basic 2012 PR Crisis Checklist:

1. Erase the offending post, tweet, or other online evidence.
2. Issue a quick apology for the offending reference. “This does not represent our views…and we are sorry.”
3. Listen to what’s being said online. What’s being said about you—and the quantity of it—should be a far greater factor in your reaction that what your CEO says.
4. Based on what’s being said, issue a personal response via the same media that the offending reference was made. Make sure it doesn’t sound like it was written by your attorney.
5. Listen to the response to your apology—and wait.
6. Wait some more—even if it hurts.
7. Hopefully the next day something else will have replaced you as news.
8. If you have to issue a second apology—you’re in trouble—but if you have to, transparency is key.

For even better advice, here’s a great article from’s Jonathan Rick—about Kitchen Aid’s latest Twitter firestorm.

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