How do you deal with a social media meltdown or PR disaster?

torches-1-300x221Masses has been written about this on the internet – if you’re afflicted, and you don’t have formal plans in place, (you should, by the way), then Google the help you need and grab as much good advice as fast as you can, or best of all find a good PR consultant who specialises in crisis response.

The last few weeks in Australia have seen a rash of “My God, they did/said what?” stories in the media, of which the most widely covered was probably the Coopers Ales story.

They pop up all the time in today’s uber-wired world. And each requires their own thoughtful analysis and response.

This is not an exhaustive response to the question posed by the headline.  But here are some very simple initial thoughts on how to respond if you find yourself splashed all over social media.

What you do next essentially always basically depends on two things:

(a) Do you agree with the criticism of your company’s behaviour? If so, say so – fast – and make a genuine commitment, including updating processes and systems if necessary, to avoid making the same mistake in the future. Consider making immediate redress to any individuals who were harmed by your actions.

The public are not fools. Everyone makes mistakes. If you have, but you respond maturely and genuinely, you will usually be given the benefit of the doubt.

(b) If you disagree, marshall your arguments and try them out on people whose judgement you trust before putting them out on social media, or in any other way. And yes, if you genuinely feel you have been unfairly treated, it makes lots of sense to get your side of the argument out there, with evidence, and without rancour.

In short, treat social media like any conversation. Think about if you were listening to a story being told about you while standing in a pub. Broadly, the same rules for wise behaviour apply.

Just one more thing. Think about how fast social media “happens”. It makes the speediest most voracious wildfire look tame by comparison.

Don’t table the matter for discussion by your Executive in a few hours, or tomorrow. Assume you have “no time” to respond, or you may find real damage done before you ever get your response out.

Drop everything, and fix it.

Author: Stephen Yolland

Director of Creative Strategy and Partner @ Magnum Opus Partners.

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