Crisis Management Plans & Social Media
Brands on social media have to be able to handle communications of all types exceptionally well. This is only the way they can genuinely retain your audience and gain consumers when you address them rapidly and directly whether the sentiment is positive or negative. A strong community management presence on all their platforms can really set the tone for the brand and help them overcome their competitors. What’s even more important than this is that they have to ensure there is a plan readily available in case there is a crisis. Crisis management plans are extremely important because you want to have a structure in place just for the chance of something to occur. In short, a crisis represents any social media activity that potentially hurts your brand’s reputation or ability to do business (Barnhart, 2020).
No matter the size of the brand, they should all have a crisis communication plan in place. Brands need to know the action steps to take as soon as a crisis strikes, identify who is in charge of each part of the plan and outline their tasks, and as well as who the backup contacts are in case the point person isn’t available (Parker, 2018). Depending on the crisis, having these plans can provide a huge help to community managers who are the first to interact with them on social channels. No one can predict the nature of a crisis, but you can at least anticipate in advance in case they come about.
The main power of social media is now widely known to be amplification, which means that both good and bad news are stories more widely shared than ever before. Going “viral” through these stories is easier than ever as users tend to lead the stride in conversations. When they see a brand suffering the wrath of tweetstorms, it’s tough to look away and not share (Rendler-Kaplan, 2019). The process of crisis management can vary depending on its severity. This can change the chain of communication as they arise and if they get bigger it will require a more direct message from the brand to its audiences. Typically when there is a general customer complaint on social, the community manager or customer service representative on the team will address it. This helps to solidify two-way communication and quickly come up with a conclusion that will help leave the user satisfied that their complaint was resolved.
Now let's say that there are multiple complaints about the same thing coming in, this is where a more curated message from the community manager or customer service representative should be provided. This will help address multiple users at once and help them all come to a common level that their issue is being resolved. When something a bit more major happens usually the PR team needs to step in order to help guide communication on social to these users that were affected. If the brand its self had a misstep, then someone on a senior level in the PR team can come up with a statement for the brand to address the situation on social on a wider level. Lastly, if there is a huge company error from the brand that brings in heavy attention from media and negative sentiment; it is best for the CEO to address the situation publicly.
Two examples of brands in 2017 who poorly conducted a management plan once a crisis hit are the instances of United Airlines when the passenger was dragged off the plane, and the Pepsi commercial. For United Airlines, there was a video that was leaked of a passenger being dragged off of a plane by security, when he was chosen at random to give up his seat for airline maintenance workers, and refused to do so. This video is terrible for the brand and how they handled it was even worse. The video ended up going viral on the internet and making it to all of the main news channels. The CEO, Oscar Munoz attempted to make the standard PR apology that would be generically recommended in these situations. He did not take full responsibility through his statement, instead, he bizarrely congratulated his staff for following the correct procedures and called the passenger belligerent. In my opinion, he failed to read the room. He should've recognized the issue at hand and what audiences were spewing about the brand through social and conducted a genuine apology with remorse of the actions taken, which would revert negative sentiment for United Airlines.
In terms of the Pepsi Commercial, they seemed to miss a lot of red flags when they created their new campaign based on peace and understanding. The ad showcased a backdrop of protest against police brutality, where model Kendal Jenner brought “peace” by handing one of the officers a can of Pepsi. Not only was it tasteless and exploitation of product placement, but it also led to users of social media boycott against Pepsi and accusing the company of undermining the Black Lives Matter movement. They apologized and immediately removed the ad, but it felt almost obvious that it was a PR stunt due to how they handled it. I felt like the brand should have recognized more the instances in which made the ad insensitive and undermining and fixed the problem by showcasing that they fully educated themselves on the issue.
From this, you can see that crisis management plans can really come in handy from brands on social media. With the widespread of information in a quick manner and sometimes in cross-platforms, brands should be fully prepared to address anything that comes their way. By actively and correctly responding, they can help strengthen how users on social media view them in the end.
Barnhart, B. (2020, March 31). Social media crisis plan: What to do when things go wrong. Sprout Social. https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-crisis-plan/
Parker, S. (2018). Guide: How to create a social media crisis management plan. Twitter. https://business.twitter.com/en/blog/guide-create-social-media-crisis-management-plan.html
Rendler-Kaplan, L. (2019, April 2). 5 Tips for Managing a Social Media Crisis. Social Media Today. https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/5-tips-for-managing-a-social-media-crisis/551770/