The “PRs” of PR: How to manage a social media crisis

Here at MediaHQ, we know first hand how powerful social media platforms have become, particularly for businesses around the world. This holds especially true in an industry like public relations, where it is used as the umbilical cord connecting an organisation to its ever-hungry public.  Social media has helped businesses not only promote themselves but also develop and maintain a positive relationship with its audience that is built on goodwill and trust.

As great as the positive effects of social media can be on a business, its potential negative power can cause even greater effects on a business for the wrong reasons.  Today, the only thing that spreads quicker on social media than a talking dog, is public outrage and the ability for others to jump on board to fuel the fire.

Here are the 5 “PRs” to help your business prepare for and manage any social media crisis, to ensure that your secret weapon doesn’t become your worst enemy:

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PRepare–Nothing can prepare you more for being unprepared, than preparing. The worst time to decide how to deal with a social media crisis is in the middle of one, so having a crisis management plan in place is an important aspect of preparation.  By creating a social media crisis management plan, it will enable your team to act quickly and effectively when crisis strikes, and prevent you from losing precious time trying to figure out “next steps”. The most crucial time of a crisis is minutes after it hits because that is when the public wants answers, and they want them fast.  By implementing a social media crisis management plan, an organisation will waste no time, and give their publics immediate answers and respond to the issue at hand.

PRactice–It’s one thing to have a social media crisis management plan, and it’s another to actually know if it works.  You don’t want to wait until you’re in the middle of a crisis to realise that there is a flaw in your social media crisis management system. In order to avoid this, it is important for a company to practice their plan twice a year to ensure you have the most practical and efficient way to handle a potentially bad situation.  By practising your social media crisis management plan you are giving your team hands-on experience while instilling a sense of confidence and composure in them, that will be essential in the time of real crisis.  

PRedict–One advantage of using social media is that it is black and white.  When the ability to express your opinion is only a “thumbs up” button away, and with the protection of a computer screen, people do not hold back when it comes to sharing their views via social media. This puts organisations at a huge advantage and allows them to see a crisis brewing before it even arises. By frequently checking comments, likes, dislikes, and shares, a PR professional can easily predict the path of the impact that their content could possibly have.  By monitoring social media behaviour and predicting its path, you will always be one step ahead of any potential crisis.

PRompt–Because a crisis on social media can spread like a wildfire, it’s very easy for a PR professional to miss their window of opportunity for action and correction. An organisation must be ready and willing to perform at a prompt and efficient rate when crisis strikes so that their de-escalation rate exceeds that of their escalation one. This way, the organisation has as much control as possible, of an uncontrolled situation. By acting fast, it allows a team to take immediate control so their audience knows that they are addressing the given situation. Being quick to respond and showing your public that you care, is in itself doing damage control by showing the people that their happiness is your main priority.

PRevent–Crisis is inevitable, and you can’t stop the inevitable from happening. You can, however, learn from past mistakes and prevent it from happening again.  Crisis management doesn’t end when the situation has calmed down, it ends when a solution is put in place to make sure it never happens again. To ensure this, it’s up to the PR professionals to analyse every crisis situation after it occurs and see where things went wrong and come up with a preventative solution.

When it comes to a social media crisis within an organisation, initially people will get angry. However, with good social media crisis management in place and a little bit of TLC, the majority of the time they are willing to forgive and give your business a second chance.