August 22, 2018
By Nicolas Altgelt
Many companies don’t know they are in the middle of a PR crisis until it is too late. This is due to being limited by policies that only react to problems. Policies should be proactive and focus on mitigating potential problems before they become bigger; which will not only save them from public scandal but will also reduce the cost of collateral damage from potential future crises.
Implementing an accurate and effective action plan first requires proper identification of potential problems as they occur; which makes it helpful for companies to know two things: What is a PR crisis on social media? And What are their characteristics?
To be clear, a PR crisis is different from the everyday complaints a company that does business with the public might receive. Let’s say you own an airline company; it is likely that you are the target of many jabs on social platforms due to flight delays or lost luggage. These everyday events alone are not considered crises. However if an angry customer ventilates their experience on social media, and the community manager lacks the necessary tools and training to handle the issue; it may explode out of the company’s controlled channels and become a Public Relations crisis.
Let’s look at a specific example with United Airlines; in April 2017 the company suffered the mother of all social media crises when a video of law enforcement officers dragging a passenger forcibly off one of its planes went viral. Mentions surrounding this event totaled around 1.6M, a staggering 12k more than mentions from the day before the event, and the vast majority were charged with negative sentiment.
After a surprisingly weak apology and a monumental fall in their stock market value, United Airlines learned the need to be ready to deal with social media blunders. This case illustrates the importance of not only early detection of possible crises; but having an adequate plan of action to deal with these crises, when and if they arise.
United CEO response to United Express Flight 3411. pic.twitter.com/rF5gNIvVd0
— United Airlines (@united) April 10, 2017
Yeah, especially as their policy says ppl can be prohibited from boarding but NOT pulled off afterwards.
— Roland Austinat (@austinat) April 11, 2017
Another important question companies must face; how on earth do you track an emerging issue that arises in the vast global community of social media? The answer is, with data and analytics.
One valuable application of data in a crisis is the real-time tracking of your audience’s behavior on various social networks. Being able to know who is looking for information, what information is most valuable to them, and how they react to different situations are elements that should be part of any companies crisis response plan.
Demographic and geographic information on users that spend time engaging with your brand’s content as well as their interests, hobbies, professions, and preferences can lead to invaluable insight into whom you should direct your communication plan towards. It is important to have a prepared plan of action because as soon as the crisis arises there must be an almost immediate response from your brand.
A backup plan based on analytics can save not only the reputation of a brand but its value in the stock market.