Digital communications has made authors, publishers and moreover critics of us all. A single negative customer experience shared as a simple rant on Facebook, Twitter or any other networking platform is enough to send the communication team behind the company in a tizzy to not only manage the situation but control any further damage to the brand’s reputation.
It is safe to say therefore that digital and especially social media is putting more pressure on PR and comms teams as they move beyond garnering publicity for brands, to online reputation and crisis management.
It is becoming increasingly clear that if PR and branding are about laying the foundations for a company’s values, then reputation and crisis management is about making sure that the hard work doesn’t get irreparably compromised.
Staying on top of what is being said about the brand and having a trained social media response is of prime importance. But realistically, manually monitoring every mention of the brand online and being able to react real-time is a tedious and time-consuming task. Investing in the right tools, personnel and a planned social media strategy saves the business time and brings in more money.
Below is a guide to how you can get started on developing an online reputation and crisis management structure to stay ahead and manage your brand online.
Action Plan: Whether it is one unhappy customer or a potential crisis situation, develop an action plan that is suitable to treat both situations. Agree on a process for risk assessment by determining which events will be treated as potential catalysts for a crisis and how likely they are to occur. Decide on the people with the right skills and knowledge to respond to the situation.
Monitoring: Not long ago Google was what companies relied on to make sure the web was at peace with their brand. Not as easy anymore unfortunately – with digital and networking platforms on the rise and bloggers taking on more marketing functions, there is a stronger need to invest in a social media monitoring tool including an engagement console. Invest in a platform that allows you to reach out to people who are talking about your brand and transform one-sided mentions into conversations and relationships. Keep in mind that social media monitoring is also your key tool to identifying and communicating with influencers.
Relationship Management: A disgruntled customer complaint or some negative press coverage can spread panic within the company which can sometimes be tricky if multiple people start trying to address the problem. To avoid duplication, an easy-to-use CRM-style tool is essential. For a PR team of several people, a CRM module built into a PR software platform can aid workflow by making it easy to create and delegate specific tasks, split out responsibilities and ensure that the same communication is not accidently dealt with twice.
Social Media Policy: It is important to have a company specific social media policy that outlines the rules and the tone of all communication on social media. This policy should outline the objectives of the company’s online presence and lay out guidelines on employee requirements when posting anything in connection with the brand’s name. The policy should include a well defined crisis management plan in preparation for a social calamity, should it arise.
Market Research: Even if the brand you’re responsible for hasn’t been compromised, an industry-wide crisis provides a great opportunity for valuable market research. What’s gone down well with customers? What’s rubbed them up the wrong way? All this information could be very useful if you ever find yourself in a similar position.
Consider whether the crisis that’s affecting competitors could begin to affect your brand in the onslaught of complaints. To prepare a statement ‘just in case’, think about the USPs, ensuring that they are all relevant to the product, incident or issue that’s under discussion.
A monitoring tool again comes in handy to help assess at the overall sentiment of your most recent mentions and those associated with your competitors.
For more in-depth information and industry knowledge on PR best practices for communicating on social media and crisis management, feel free to download our previous whitepapers for free.
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