Online Crises: Effectively Dealing with the Unexpected
There are many benefits associated with the Internet. We are able to disseminate information to millions of potential customers from around the world at breakneck speeds. Strategic marketing capabilities have been dramatically enhanced while the modern digital platform has provided even smaller firms with the ability to target a truly global audience. However, things can and will go awry from time to time. How can we successfully manage an online crisis such as a negative press release or a failed product? This can actually be a bit tougher than it appears, so it is a good idea to take a look at some sure-fire solutions.
The Proactive Stance
One of the most important concepts to appreciate is proactivity. Always be prepared for unexpected circumstances that may arise. One example can be seen in the recent Emirates Airline fire. Companies which have a crisis management plan ready well in advance will be able to avoid confusion and stumbling blocks once bad news hits the digital airwaves. So, they can respond much quicker and avoid any confusion that often results (with potentially negative consequences) from late-breaking news.
One of the ways in which a company can severely damage its reputation is by not providing the correct information when it becomes available. An unfortunate illustration of this (again in reference to aviation) can be seen in the rather poor PR campaign undertaken by Malaysian Airlines immediately following the MH370 incident. Not only was the press confused, but relatives were extremely upset with the lack of reliability that the company was displaying. The end result was a damaging loss of credibility. Transparency is key to avoiding such circumstances. Some steps that should always be taken include:
Providing CONFIRMED information as soon as it becomes available.
Promising to publish future updates in a timely fashion.
Offering a means for press to contact the company in the event of future inquiries.
All of these actions will help to avert speculation while keeping those involved informed at all times.
Monitoring and Responsivity
There is no doubt that engaging with clients and the general public is essential during any public relations campaign. So, why would this principle be any different in the event of a crisis? Some firms have the habit of “shrinking” away from accusations or bad press for fear of further inflaming the situation. This approach will inevitably do more harm than good.
Monitor all of the most important social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest, for example). Although it is not necessary to reply to every comment, addressing issues which draw a considerable amount of attention is vital to stem the flow of negative media attention. Also, this will show clients that representatives of the company truly care about their image.
Logo and Brand Image
There can be times when temporarily modifying a logo or image can silently display to the public that the firm appreciates recent negative events. Think of how the logos of many American new channels incorporated the flag immediately after the attacks of September 11th. This displays solidarity with the public and illustrates empathy; both crucial in terms of public opinion.
These are some of the best ways to mitigate the effects of bad press from both short- and long-term perspectives. In the age of digital media, there is simply no room to adopt a “watch-and-wait” approach. Inaction could have grave consequences to even the most respected of firms. By adopting such a proactive stance, a negative incident could very well evolve into an ultimately positive outcome.