Crisis management: from social shitstorm to trending topic

Linsey • 7 minute read • 28/04/2020
Media monitoring, Reputation management
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When a crisis breaks, it is important to know what is going on around your organisation. For this, social media are both an important information source to oversee the way the news spreads, and an important source to gather information. Due to the real-time nature of many channels, many stakeholders immediately turn to social media in times of crisis. Where does the crisis originate and how should it be handled? How do you make sure the crisis management of your company is in order? After reading this article you will be more than ready to fully prepare your organisation for an event like this!

Different types of social media crises

Social media are an outlet for many and a message can lead to a reputation crisis for your brand of organisation in no time. In order to know how to deal with these crises, you first need to know where they come from. We often see social media as an important information source during crises in the ‘real world’, a recent example of which is the fire in the Notre Dame, but social media can also be a source for news media.

Ongoing discussions about customer service, product quality and dissatisfaction among employees are picked up by mainstream media, such as Kassa, Radar and Keuringsdienst van Waarde. Or we see memes, internet jokes that spread like a wildfire, that lead to parliamentary questions and a statement from politicians. Think about, for example, the farewell event for Sylvana Simons, that started as an event on Facebook.

How to recognise a crisis

To ensure you’re alarm bells don’t start ringing at every turn, it is useful to know what a crisis entails. From the online reputation management perspective this means: how do we recognise the initial stage of a crisis that arises on social media. The points below help you to identify a crisis.

  • A change in volume: You can measure a striking change in the volume around you organisation. In practice this often means an increase of at least 200 to 300% in a short amount of time. A social media monitoring tool can be set up in such a way that you receive alerts for this and are informed as quickly as possible.
  • A change in sentiment: A sudden increase of negative messages can be an indication that a crisis could occur.
  • Issues and stakeholders: A group of stakeholders talks about your organisation or a relevant and important topic on social media. It is therefore important to also monitor issues and stakeholders from the sector.
  • A data leakage: sensitive information that comes out unexpectedly. It is possible that there is a data leakage within the organisation, or perhaps an employee that is a little too talkative..
  • Negative coverage or external publication: A certain source picks up an item. This could be an article where your organisation is mentioned in combination with pollution or a bad staff policy.

A social media crisis in sight. Now what?!

The first step is to use monitoring to recognise when a crisis could occur. And now what? Step two is to try and avert the crisis. Use the following 8 tips as a tool to get the crisis under control:

Tip 1: Create a clear division of labour within the team

Planning is key. During a crisis there isn’t any time to have a conversation about responsibility. Who is responsible for monitoring and interpreting the information? Who takes care of the external communication to stakeholders and/or the internal sharing of knowledge. Who is being reported to? Make those agreements in advance, so you can fully focus on preventing reputation damage when a crisis arises. Create a crisis team today and ensure that the communication between team members is clear and that everyone know about each other’s responsibilities and tasks. Hopefully you won’t be in crisis mode often, so remind your employees of the crisis procedures at least once a year.

Tip 2: Use real-time dashboards and narrowcasting

Determine which persons within your organisation benefit from a real-time overview of the reports surrounding the crisis and which persons need guidance and advice every (half an) hour. Consider, for example, the spokesperson, the CEO, but also any investors and your own staff. For that first group you could activate real-time monitoring by using dashboards and narrowcasting.

Tip 3: Get insight into the crisis

What are you going to do? Are you going to respond, or not? And if you do choose to respond, will you do this publicly through a statement or in private surroundings. Social media analyses help to inform internal stakeholders. Such analyses are also needed to prepare appropriate responses. During a crisis it is therefore crucial to look at what is being said about your organisation in the media and on social media.

Tip 4: Decide what you need to know

By monitoring properly during a crisis, you can accurately and quickly respond to a crisis and, if possible, start a dialogue. This way you can get to a solution faster, because having a complete overview of the facts allows you to anticipate discussions. Identifying the point of time of the report, the speed with which it spreads and the most important stakeholders and journalists allow you to anticipate quickly.

Tip 5: Set up social media monitoring

A common mistake is the limited setup and range of search queries. Do not only search on the name of your organisation, but also monitor important persons in the organisation, such as the CEO, members of the BoD, spokespersons, and the management. Synonyms of the brand name or product names could also be part of your search query. By making the search term as comprehensive as possible, you get a complete picture of the reports in which your organisation is mentioned.

Tip 6: Measure the internal sentiment

Social media is not just about external communication. It is at least as important to continue monitoring internal social channels during a crisis. By integrating internal channels such as Yammer, Slack and Sharepoint in your media monitoring, you also have a thermometer in your dashboard that keeps an eye on the internal sentiment. Are colleagues worried about the crisis? Of do they agree with the statements that are being made about the organisation? This information can be essential when managing a crisis internally.

Tip 7: Set up an internal crisis FAQ

Setting up a crisis FAQ is important. The crisis FAQ is more than a standard overview of questions and answers. It also contains a description of all events, the cause of the crisis and all information that is known so far. During a crisis it is therefore important to get all the facts straight as soon as possible, so the entire organisation can receive tools to adequately respond to all stakeholders, and with the same message.

Tip 8: Check your planned content!

When a crisis occurs it is important to check planned content, such as social media posts, and delete it where necessary. This also applies to issues or relevant events within your industry or society. For example, is there an attack, the death of a public figure or a serious plane crash? Check the content and see which messages you can adjust, delete or save for later.

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Linsey Jepma
As Content & PR Coordinator, I am involved in the wonderful world of webcare, chatbots, reputation management and data insights on a daily basis. Writing really is my thing and I have an inexplicable passion for neuromarketing and behaviour. Do you want to exchange thoughts? Connect with me at LinkedIn.

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