Managing a PR Crisis on Social Media: A Guide to Preparing, Responding, and Recovering

By Grazel Gueco

Let’s face it: social media can be a wild and unpredictable place. One moment, your brand can be basking in the glow of positive feedback and engagement, and the next, you could find yourself in the middle of a full-blown PR crisis. As a community manager, it’s your job to help your brand navigate these choppy waters and come out the other side with its reputation intact. This post is a quick guide on what you should be doing before, during, and after a PR crisis to help minimize the damage and get your brand back on track.

What to do to prepare for a crisis

The key to managing a PR crisis on social media is to be prepared before it happens. Here are some steps your whole team can take to prepare:

  1. Create a crisis communications plan: You might think that a crisis plan is something that only the big dogs need, but even the smallest of businesses can benefit from one. It’s like a roadmap for navigating through a crisis, with all the important contact information, templates, and protocols you need to keep your brand’s reputation intact. It’s kind of like having a superhero cape tucked away for a rainy day.
  1. Establish clear roles and protocols: Think of this as the Avengers assembling to save the world. Each team member has a specific role to play and knows exactly what they need to do to save the day. In the same way, you need to define the roles and protocols for handling a crisis. Who is responsible for monitoring the channels? Who will handle customer complaints? And who will be your legal eagle?
  1. Identify potential crisis triggers: Just like how Spiderman has Spidey-senses, you need to have a radar for identifying potential crisis triggers. It could be a negative comment, a customer complaint, or even a product issue. Whatever it is, you need to be on top of it and be prepared to respond quickly and effectively. This means keeping your ear to the ground and your eyes on the screen.
  1. Establish a crisis communication team: You need representatives from all the key areas of your business, from social media to PR to legal to customer support. This way, you can tackle the crisis from all angles and ensure that your brand comes out on top.

What to do during a crisis

  1. Quickly identify the scope and severity of the crisis: It’s time to put on your detective hat and monitor social media channels to determine the scope and severity of the crisis. But beware, this isn’t your typical episode of CSI, so don’t jump to conclusions just yet. Take the time to determine the cause of the crisis, assess the impact on customers, and evaluate the potential implications for the brand.
  1. Make sure the crisis communication team has all hands on deck: It’s time to gather the team to create a consistent and unified response within the company. Propose an initial statement and communicate it effectively with the key stakeholders for approval. Keep everyone informed of the situation, provide regular updates, and seek input and guidance as needed. 
  1. Take visible measures to address the crisis while demonstrating accountability: Honesty is always the best policy, especially during a crisis. Acknowledge the issue, take ownership of the situation, and communicate clearly and honestly about what steps the brand is taking to address the crisis. Customers can sense a cover-up from a mile away, so make sure to always keep it real and take accountability.
  1. Respond promptly to customer concerns: When it comes to customer concerns, time is of the essence. Immediately responding will help you report on the original version of the crisis and prevent rumours and wrong interpretations. Provide clear and concise answers, and offer solutions or remedies where possible. Your customers will appreciate your quick response, and it can go a long way in rebuilding their trust. 
  1. Manage the volume of social media messages and comments: When a crisis hits, social media can quickly turn into a war zone. The volume of social media messages and comments can become overwhelming, so make sure to use social media management tools to help manage the volume of messages and comments. Prioritize those that require an urgent response and try to stay calm and collected in the face of the social media storm.

What to do after the crisis to recover your brand image

Congratulations! You’ve made it through the crisis. But don’t let out that sigh of relief just yet – there’s still work to be done. After a crisis, it’s crucial to take steps to recover and rebuild trust with customers. Here are some steps your brand can take to make things right:

  1. Conduct a post-crisis review: Phew, that was intense! Take a deep breath, gather your team, and conduct a post-crisis review. Analyze the crisis response, identify areas for improvement, and make sure everyone is on the same page. 
  1. Update the crisis communications plan: Based on lessons learned from the crisis, update the crisis communications plan. Make sure the plan includes all the necessary protocols, contact information, and messaging templates. Don’t forget to share the updated plan with the entire team.
  1. Continue to monitor social media channels: Even though the crisis is over, don’t let your guard down. Keep monitoring social media channels for any lingering issues or customer concerns. Be proactive in addressing any remaining issues and continue to provide updates and transparent communication.
  1. Rebuild trust with customers: Building trust takes time and effort, but it’s crucial to regain the loyalty of your customers. Offer sincere apologies, solutions, or other remedies as appropriate. Follow up with customers and ensure their concerns have been addressed. Go the extra mile to show your customers that you value their business and their trust.

Managing a PR crisis on social media can be a challenging and stressful task, but by planning ahead, communicating effectively, and staying vigilant, you can help protect your brand’s reputation and rebuild trust with customers. Remember that social media is a human and emotional space, and that authenticity and empathy can go a long way in diffusing tense situations.

At Hearts Agency, our team of community management experts has a ton of resources and strategies that can help your brand navigate the complexities of social media and manage any potential PR crisis. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help your brand build and maintain meaningful connections with your customers.