With information spreading via traditional media and social media at ever-increasing speeds, speaking out about a crisis right from the start can help you shape the story and make clear that your organization is on top of the situation. And one of the best ways to do that is with live video on your social feeds, especially if your crisis may impact public safety.
Starbucks has had a rough week after an issue of racial discrimination at one of its stores in Philadelphia led to national headlines. In response, the company has gone beyond the traditional CEO apology and announced that it will close more than 8,000 stores across the U.S. for one day for antibias training among its employees.
Communicators can never be too prepared for a crisis, especially in the age of social media. Luckily, there are dozens of tools—many of them free—your company can leverage to assist in planning for and managing crisis communications swiftly and effectively. Barry Reicherter, executive vice president and senior partner/director of insights at Finn Partners, lists three key priorities for monitoring social before, during and after a crisis and an artillery of programs for each.
Following a data breach by an unknown party in February, Under Armour—MyFitnessPal’s parent company—released an email on March 29 notifying users of the incident. In the email, Under Armour explained that the hack was initially discovered on March 25, and “the affected information included usernames, email addresses, and hashed passwords—the majority with the hashing function called bcrypt used to secure passwords.”
Savvy communicators know that having a crisis plan in place before a situation emerges is crucial for any brand. But not every negative comment requires a full-scale mobilization of the proverbial troops. Some social media crises can be mitigated before they gain widespread attention. Taking a tiered approach to crisis management strategy is important for avoiding blunders. By examining your company’s audience and vulnerabilities ahead of time, you can create protocols for each tier.
Massage Envy, the spa chain with nearly 1,200 U.S. locations, is under fire as a BuzzFeed investigation brought to light more than 180 allegations of sexual assault made against the company and its franchisees over a 15-year span. And its response to the crisis so far has served as a cautionary tale of bad planning, offering a lesson in what not to do to contain a crisis.
The infrastructure renewal plan for New York’s Penn Station could’ve been a PR nightmare for Amtrak, which owns the station. But after the work was completed and service resumed as usual in early September, commuters seemed to come through the other side unscathed. Amtrak’s communications team can claim some of the credit for that success.
Videos of a man being dragged off of a United flight Sunday night have quickly spread through the web, drawing widespread condemnation and outrage. While United CEO Oscar Munoz publicly apologized the next day and said the company was investigating the incident, he took a decidedly tougher stance in an internal letter to employees. Instead of acknowledging that the company’s “established procedures” might need to be re-examined, Munoz doubled-down, citing policy and effectively passing the buck. Worse yet, the letter went on to shift the blame to the passenger.
Many organizations make the mistake of not planning for a crisis, thinking it’s either superstitious or somewhat futile. But when dealing with a crisis, you need to be fast, transparent and most of all, prepared, says Linda Rutherford, vice president and chief communications officer with Southwest Airlines. Here are three lessons she has learned from the airline industry and beyond.
Given their broad franchise networks and large customer base—and of course their huge social media audiences—fast-food chains can be seen as guinea pigs for how the public discourse is digitally evolving. Consider the latest high-profile example of how a single Facebook post led to the rapid closure of a Dairy Queen—within 48 hours of being posted.