A crisis can ignite for any organization at any time, sparked by online or offline causes. Regardless of where a crisis starts, the real-time nature of digital media means that social conversations will move faster than your company can make decisions.
Online rumors spread like wildfire and can quickly morph into a more dangerous form of attack: cyber shaming. Cyber shaming occurs when a mob of social media users attack a person or organization online in retribution for a real—or perceived—wrong or injustice. The punishment is swift, the impact is often disproportionate to the crime and the offline consequences for your business are very real.
Three major types of crises can put your company at risk for cyber shaming:
1. The Old-Fashioned: A devastating event starts in the real world and quickly migrates onto social media, such as missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
2. The Gathering Storm: A seemingly isolated event or statement spreads quickly on social media until it demands a corporate response, such as the incident between Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and the NBA.
3. The Social Media Slip-Up: A social post starts a firestorm due to poor timing, poor planning or simply poor judgment, such as such as the recent Clorox emoji tweet.
When a “that could never happen to us” situation does happen to your company, we recommend the following survival strategy.
Take the Pulse
It is critical to tune in to online conversations and conduct social listening as soon as the crisis begins. No matter where the crisis originated, monitor to determine the reach of the social conversation and to gauge whether sentiment is crossing the line into cyber shaming.
There are countless tools available for companies to monitor social media, and it helps to utilize a combination of platforms. At Pierpont, we use a comprehensive monitoring system that captures reach, sentiment, influencers and conversation drivers and provides data to help our team make informed decisions.
Consider Your Audience
After taking the pulse of the crisis and deciding to respond, it is crucial to analyze how and where to respond to your online audiences. Evaluate which social networks the conversation is taking place on, and use your company’s existing social platforms to respond.
Next, identify stakeholders, develop a plan for outreach and tailor your message accordingly. Social posts and responses should be consistent with the actions and statements of your organization’s crisis plan.
Always be authentic, transparent, reliable and proactive, sharing factual information tied to official statements. If social conversation or cyber shaming is focused on a specific aspect of the crisis, tighten your responses to spotlight that topic.
Finally, continue to monitor the conversation after a post is made.
Continue the Road to Recovery
Companies can survive a crisis (and the subsequent cyber shaming) based on two points: the good will your organization already possesses, and how well you are prepared. Every company needs an established crisis plan that fully integrates the organization’s social media policy.
With the crisis in the review mirror, companies should continue monitoring on an ongoing basis. They should also heed Rahm Emanuel’s words that “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” Post-crisis is the perfect time to evaluate your existing brand, policies and crisis plan, and revise for the future.
Chris Jones is a vice president with Houston-based Pierpont Communications. Follow Pierpont @PierpontCom