Companies face reputational crises every day. In an increasingly social media centric world, where no mistake or slip up goes unpunished and news of reputational damage spreads like wildfire, it’s never been more important to plan for potential crises. Every organisation today needs to be prepared – remember, a crisis doesn’t necessarily have to be something your company has done wrong, it may well be caused by an external factor that’s completely out of your hands. Luckily, you need look no further: the Whitehouse team has summarised the basic necessary steps that will help you ensure that your business is prepared for any crisis which may arise.
Understand your social media platforms
Social media enables companies to heighten brand awareness, increase social community size, accurately target audiences and increase customer loyalty, amongst many other things. Understanding the functions and key audiences of each social media platform is the key to being able to being able to execute online reputational management strategies effectively using digital media.
Make the most of your voice
Companies and brands should make the most of communication channels such as blogs and social media websites to amplify their voice and push key messaging. Blogs provide a platform to deliver consistent material completely within a company’s control, placing the company’s expertise as central in the sector. When faced with a potential PR crisis, a blog gives autonomy, freedom and the opportunity to quickly deliver external messaging.
Talk to journalists
Media relations is an essential part of any reputation communications issue. Liaising with journalists with regards to a potential crisis, particularly if anticipated early, can mark the difference between a company surviving or falling. It is important to identify the key journalists with an interest in the subject or who have a voice in the sector and ensure that the company’s side of the story and messaging is firmly embedded in the narrative.
React quickly and politely
Social media is all about a quick reaction and swift response. As a starting point, try to reply to concerns within an hour. Social media users want companies to at least acknowledge the issue even if a full response isn’t available yet. Acknowledge the issue and set a realistic time frame for a response.
The worst thing you can do for your brand is to ignore negative comments. You should reply to every comment whether it’s positive, negative, or neutral. Maintaining positive relations on social media during a crisis by acknowledging reputational risk is a must for any company, as it helps a company connect better with their followers and adds a human element.
Be transparent and open
Social media has dramatically increased the importance of transparency and accountability for businesses. Increased accountability elevates the role that transparent and authentic interactions play in a successful crisis communications strategy. Customers often value honesty and transparency and are likely to reject duplicity and vagueness, which may ultimately cause customers to lose confidence in your brand.
Monitor and measure everything
A range of online tools are at our disposal to track anything said about companies, campaigns and brands. Using monitoring software increases the chance of spotting a potential reputational management crisis early on which will give you ample time to plan a response.
Learn from your mistakes
No reputational management strategy is perfect – far from it. But with each crisis that arises, your team will become better equipped to deal with crises and protect your company. Make sure you take necessary action to evaluate the successes and development points of the strategy in order to learn and hone crisis communications and risk management skills for next time.
The Whitehouse Consultancy is an award-winning issues-led communications agency with decades of experience in public affairs, press and media relations, stakeholder engagement, crisis communications and training. The Whitehouse team are experts in the impact of global crises, providing crisis communications, risk management and public affairs advice to a wide range of clients in the United Kingdom and across the member states of the European Union. Please click here to view our crisis communications service in more detail.