For organizations, social media is the new Wild West: There is no sheriff, vigilante justice is the order of the day, and things can get very crazy very quickly.
If you don’t believe me, just ask Papa John’s, Starbucks, and United Airlines.
The bad behavior of one or two employees, amplified through the bullhorns of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, can snowball in a way that threatens a brand that took years to build. Suddenly, instead of being the pizza chain that loves football, the community-minded coffee chain, or the airline that offers something special in the air, your organization might become known as the one with the racist chairman or managers, or the one that dragged a paying passenger off an overbooked flight.
Sometimes social media calls attention to behavior that truly is wrong and should be publicized and corrected.
The Internet is Like High School
At other times, things seem to blow up for a company just because the internet is a lot like high school: Some people like to get attention by attacking others, and many find it entertaining to gather around and hoot. If the facts get distorted along the way, too bad.
There is no doubt that, from the viewpoint of business, the rise of social media has created a significant new set of challenges.
It is now essential for business continuity and crisis management teams to think about how to protect your brand, along with their more traditional concerns, when writing your business continuity plans.
Our 7 Tips to Help Your Protect Your Brand
In today’s post, I’m going to share our 7 Tips to Help You Protect Your Brand in a Crisis. They are:
1. Become brand-aware
The days when business continuity professionals could leave worrying about the organization’s brand and image to the marketing and advertising people are over. Your organization’s brand is an asset which needs to be protected, just like your physical plant and computer networks. As a business continuity professional, this is partly your responsibility. In today’s environment, BC people need to be brand-aware. They must learn to think about the potential negative impact on the company’s brand and image of crisis events—and to take steps ahead of time and during the emergency to minimize harm to the organization’s reputation.
2. Include brand protection in your crisis management plan
Procedures to protect your organization’s brand and image should be included in your crisis management plan. When things go south, you don’t want to have to make it up as you go along. It’s the same with brand-protection as with facilities or network protection. The better prepared you are, the better things are likely to go—and the less negative impact you are likely to see.
3. Devise policies governing staff social media use
We recommend that only designated individuals be authorized to communicate about the organization on social media. Other staff should be reminded that they should not comment using personal accounts or public forums when it implies they are speaking officially. In fact, it is desirable that individuals refrain from using personal accounts to comment on company business or issues (your organization may have to address any free-speech concerns or other personnel-related impacts). Personnel should receive training to ensure they understand their obligations. When employees freelance in commenting on company business in the public square, misinformation multiplies and the message gets muddled. Remember, even if your staff is not posting directly to social media, their communication with family regarding their safety or what is happening may be shared by those family members. It is probably safe to say that nothing is private any longer.
4. Keep an ear to the ground
What you don’t know can hurt you. Just because you can’t hear them, it doesn’t mean they’re not talking about you. And that talk can be harmful if it’s negative or incorrect chatter about your organization. You might not be on Twitter or Instagram, but large numbers of your customers or potential customers might be. Your organization should come up with a method of keeping track of what is being said about it on social media and traditional media – don’t forget about news forums, feeds, and television. Many independent consultants are available to perform this monitoring, or it could be done by personnel in-house.
5. Have help lined up ahead of time
During a fast-moving public-relations crisis is not the time to go shopping around for a crisis PR consultant to protect your brand. It’s best to establish a relationship with a firm ahead of time. When trouble strikes, the necessary personal relationships and business arrangements will already be in place. The firm can turn immediately to helping your organization protect its good name.
6. Draft responses for likely problems in advance
Obviously, you can’t know exactly what nasty surprises fate might have in store for your organization. However, you can draft responses for a few of the more likely general scenarios ahead of time. Examples of such scenarios might include situations where high-ranking employees are accused of misconduct, the organization’s products or services are found to have problems, there has been a safety issue or injury, or unhappy customers are making public complaints. If you keep these pre-drafted responses with your business continuity plans, you can use them for guidance in the first flush of responding to the crisis; just tailor the details to match the specific situation. Language crafted carefully and vetted by many eyes is more likely to be judicious and effective than responses thrown together in the heat of the moment. Have you noticed how many organizations’ initial responses to their difficulties make things worse by being flip or dismissive? Having pre-written responses which model a tone in keeping with the company’s core values can help make it less likely you will shoot yourself in the foot in responding to a public-relations crisis.
7. Establish triplines for bringing in outside assistance
To facilitate sound decision-making during a crisis, it can be good to establish ahead of time when you will reach out to outside consultants for help. Examples of commonly used triplines include: if the crisis moves from being a local matter to a statewide or nationwide matter or if it involves a serious injury or death.
“No Comment’’ Won’t Protect Your Brand in a Crisis
Nowadays, there are many ways organizations can respond if they are caught up in a public-relations crisis. There is also one way they cannot respond: by saying, “No comment.”
It might be a while before the internet adopts Emily Post’s rules of etiquette and the only organizations that take a licking on social media are the ones who deserve it. In the meantime, your organization can increase its ability to protect your brand and image during a crisis by adopting the tips given above.