German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is credited with the widespread saying and popular belief that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Would he agree with this sentiment now, even in the face of a potential crisis unfettered on one of today’s worldwide social media networks? With the advent of social media, people around the globe have the ability to be aware of virtually anything the instant that it happens. So what can your brand do to extinguish the destructive fires that all of this opportunity has the capacity to produce? If you have to ask then you need to get with the program, and fast!
Before you even think of what steps your brand needs to take in the event of a full-blown catastrophe, you first need to identify a team of individuals that will serve as your crisis respondents. Before a disaster has the opportunity to emerge, this team needs to take the time to think about what potential dilemmas could arise and then think of ways that those situations could be dealt with effectively. The motto for your brand regarding any potential crisis should be “Be prepared!” That said, someone within the brand should be monitoring every social media channel that is currently known to man. This will aid in a super-duper-quick response time, and perhaps even stop a crisis before it starts.
If the inevitable happens and you do, in fact, find your brand in the middle of a debacle, the following are a series of steps that you can take in order to mitigate a crisis (Note: while this is a team effort and all brand employees should be up-to-date regarding the status of the situation, these steps should be initiated and followed-though with one voice, by the Community Manager):
1. Immediately acknowledge what happened (taking special care to listen, and always present accurate information).
2. Sincerely apologize (this means absolutely no use of automated or cookie-cutter responses).
3. Provide a brief explanation (no blame or dismissal, see step #1: acknowledge).
4. Present a plan of action (and a place where people can go to keep up with the progress, where the information will be current).
5. Follow up with those affected (personally— again, no one wants to feel as though they are conversing with a robot).
Hopefully this works and your brand is safe. You can now breathe a quick sigh of relief, but hold on– your work is not yet done! After recovering from a crisis, it is imperative that the designated team review what occurred in order to recognize what went well and what needs to be modified so that this type of thing never happens again. Celebrate the successes and then address specific ways that the crisis could have been avoided. The take-away message is to learn from the mistakes that were made and adapt. This may have been Nietzsche’s point exactly.