10 Important Steps to Crisis Management: A Public Relations & Social Media Approach

Picture Acknowledgment: Robert Galbraith

1. Acknowledging that there is a problem

Going out of your way to show customers that you perceive a problem will solve a host of issues with the issues arising from a crisis communications scenario. Customers respond to companies that will admit their mistakes and seek to raise awareness, to give customers insight into company operations. Thereby, companies create trust and loyalty with transparency, rather than hiding a crisis, and denying that there is a problem.

2. Listen with empathy & respect

Take care to make the customer know he or she is being taken seriously and that reporting problem is a concern to the company. People know when you are faking concern. Seek to be authentic above all else. Authenticity starts with humility and a listening spirit.

3. Avoid dismissal and judgement of customers

Making an effort to show that customers have a legitimate grievance is the best solution to crisis communications. Customers come to your company with an attitude of wanting to have their concerns met. You as a company need to respond with the attitude of respectful understanding, regardless of how you feel about their professionalism or mode of communication, i.e. a customer with a threatening tone.

4. Respond with the latest up-to-date information on the crisis

Many companies are tempted to hide the fact that there is a crisis. They will cover-up or equivocate to make their company look better than they actually are. This behavior is unacceptable and will cause major repercussions, mainly the loss of trust and honesty. Reputation can be lost in a moment, yet it takes years to rebuild customer confidence and company integrity.

5. Be candid

Instead of painting a one-sided narrative of your company, seek to show a journalistic perspective, showing both sides of the issue. Honesty is a quality that is paramount above stock prices or customer disappointment.

6. Detail S.M.A.R.T. steps that will solve the problem

A. Specific

Have a plan to combat the crisis with numbers, facts, and figures. Support your findings and reports with actionable evidence, not mere opinions.

B. Measurable

Make an effort to craft crisis communication that is able to be tracked. Plans need to be able to be followed up on and be seen to actually solve the issues at hand.

C. Attainable

Is this goal realistic? Can we actually make this goal a reality? These questions will serve as good starting blocks for creating quality crisis communication during a PR meltdown.

D. Realistic

Can customers see the validity in your response to the crisis? Is there a possibility that this crisis will end in favorable, negative, or harmless outcomes?

E. Timely

Show customers an action plan based in a timeframe that details specific steps in a set time period. Make sure they know that you are planning in the crisis and are making an effort to clear the issue in a timely fashion.

7. Release press releases on the issue

Create content to be released to the media in press release packets to be used on the TV, social media, and any news outlets to spread the word on your S.M.A.R.T. goals to manage the current company crisis.

8. Social Media Marketing Campaign to raise awareness to the solution

Start monitoring social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, to utilize customer feedback to manage crisis communications directly to the consumer. Companies create specific social media teams and accounts to respond and to publish content to be on top of crisis communications. Starbucks is a great example of a company that is active across all social media platforms, including Snapchat, Periscope, & YouTube.

9. Show care & concern to customers regardless of their attitude or actions

Raise the level of professionalism even if customers are dragging your company in the mud. You have the responsibility to raise the tone of communication during a crisis. Make an effort to reciprocate good attitudes, actions, and conversations in a positive light.

10. Proactively create a culture that values customer feedback, preventing & implementing a crisis management team

If your company has not created a crisis team in the process of managing this crisis, put in place a team to manage crisis communications for future issues. Let customers know that you will proactively seek to solve problems and that you respect their opinions and feedback.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to comment below.

Baertlein, Lisa, and Robert Galbraith. “Chipotle Sued over GMO-free Menu Claims.” Reuters. Ed. David Gregorio. Thomson Reuters, 31 Aug. 2015. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.

“Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals.” Top Achievement. Top Achievement, 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.

“Crisis Management Webinar: Real-Time Strategies for PR Pros.” PR News. PR News, 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.

Paine, Katie. “Chipotle & Theranos Differ on Crisis Management, Results Similar Though.” PR News. PR News, 21 Dec. 2015. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.

Swenson, Mike. “PR Lessons from Chipotle’s Response Strategy: Is Your Restaurant Ready for Its Crisis?” Bulldog Reporter. Bulldog Reporter, 09 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.

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