Author: Elizabeth Sarah Larkin

If you think that a public relations crisis won’t happen to you and your business, then you’re wrong.

Even the most well-run and well-organized business can find themselves in a PR crisis out of nowhere. Some are silly and annoying whereas others can be far more serious. If not properly addressed and managed, a PR crisis can even spell the end of your business before you know it.

Social media may be the cause of a PR crisis, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t use it to your advantage. In fact, if it’s used effectively, social media can help minimize the aftermath of a crisis and even help your business come out on top. 

Here’s how you can use social media during a PR crisis.

1. Define what a crisis is

What is a crisis? Depending on your business, it may vary. What you should know is that a PR crisis is a massive negative change in the ongoing online conversation about your business.  It’s also going to possibly create long-term damage to your business’ reputation. Once you understand what defines a crisis for your business, you’ll have a better understanding of how to address it.

2. Have a social media policy in place

If you don’t have a social media policy in place, then you need one immediately. This policy should carefully outline what’s acceptable and unacceptable to post on social media, what you want your brand voice to sound like, how to speak with customers (publicly versus privately), and how you want your employees to talk about your business. You also want to create a Crisis Communication Plan too. Creating a solid social media policy will hopefully ensure that you know how to address a PR crisis, and even help reduce the likelihood of one happening on social media.

3. Halt all scheduled posts

If your business pre-schedules social media posts well ahead of time, you’re going to want to cancel them. Depending on the content and the context of the situation, a scheduled social media post uploaded during a PR crisis can range from ridiculous to downright insensitive. During a crisis, avoid posting any content that could make it worse. Only when the crisis has finally blown over should you resume posting your normal content.

4. Engage with the public without arguing

After initially addressing a crisis, you still have to navigate many customer questions and concerns that will inevitably come up. If any social media users comment on your business in a negative manner, you need to politely address them as soon as possible. If the customer wishes to engage with you further, move the conversation into a more private manner such as direct messages. You can even move it away from social media if necessary. But the most important thing to do is to be professional and polite whenever you engage with the public. Becoming argumentative will only cause you a lot of trouble and make the PR crisis worse.

5. Learn from the crisis

Once the PR crisis has finally ended, that’s the time to finally evaluate how you and your business handle the matter. Don’t just limit it to social media, but it’s still an important area to examine. From there, figure out where you did good and where you went wrong in handling the PR crisis. Amend any policies and rules you have in order to ensure that if a crisis ever happens again, you’ll be better at responding to it than before.

No business wants to deal with the scrutiny and stress that comes with enduring a PR crisis. But if you use social media to address it the right way, it can help you in addressing the situation in an appropriate manner. 

Social media can surely do some harm, but it can also do a lot of good!

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