Media Strategies for Marketing Places in Crisis

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Making a comment on a major event, particularly one that has a degree of sensitivity around it, is incredibly risky, so think about why you feel the need to make that comment. Tactfulness is a very difficult skill for brands to pull off, particularly in the heat of the moment, and many brands have found out that even genuinely good natured intentions can be considered crass if they are illthought and badly executed.

If your brand is one that they would expect to see in the discussion for instance, a sportswear supplier commenting on a football match , go ahead. Planning on passing comment about a major political event or an impending hurricane? DHL is an official supplier of Formula One racing and, as part of that partnership, it has access to millions of motorsport fans. He was rushed to hospital, where he remained in a coma before tragically passing away in July DHL posted a message on its Facebook page in support of Bianchi, but it was the way that the post was constructed that drew criticism.

DHL later retracted the message and issued an apology, claiming that the post was not intended to come across as cynically as it may have appeared. As a sponsor of Formula One, DHL arguably has a right to comment on this topic but it has to be done with sensitivity.

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Lots of brands use social media as a vehicle for joining in with a conversation, be that a current event, a prominent news story or simply just a red letter day in the calendar. Understanding the context of that conversation, and the context of the content you post, is critical. Get it wrong, and your social media strategy can turn to disaster. Make sure that your content is relevant to the context of the conversation, and that you fully understand how that content relates to the conversation.

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You should also be mindful of tone of the conversation. The 4th July holiday comes with a lot of traditions in the United States, and one of those involves fireworks. Clothing brand American Apparel tried to get in on the act by posting a photo to their Tumblr page that to them, represented a cool image of a firework. It was, in fact, an image of the Challenger space shuttle disaster. The disaster, which saw the shuttle explode shortly after launch, killed all seven astronauts on board.

Negative comments began to flood the American Apparel social media channels, prompting the company to delete the post and issue a grovelling apology. They put the gaffe down to a member of their social media team, born after the Challenger disaster, being unaware of the context of the image. American Apparel was not the first, and will not be the last brand to unwittingly post something on social media out of context, but it shows the need for at least some sort of process for editorial control in a social media operation.

It is likely that a more senior colleague would have been aware of the context of the image, or at least questioned the source of the image, thereby preventing a situation where the brand comes across as ignorant and insensitive. Some problems you will be able to fix very quickly, if not immediately. Other problems will take time to resolve. The task at hand is not necessarily to resolve the problem although if you can, you obviously should but to simply acknowledge it.

There will be some problems that you may not be able to solve quickly, or may be exacerbated by external forces beyond your control the travel industry, for example, frequently has to deal with problems created by inclement weather, industrial action or political unrest , but acknowledging the problem at least demonstrates that you are on the side of the consumer. Keep up to date with our free email. Hand picked whitepapers and posts from our blog, as well as exclusive videos and webinar invitations keep our Users one step ahead. In response to a customer tweet about a delayed flight, US Airways replied by posting a lewd image.

This reply, and the image, was instantly distributed to more than , followers of the airline. US Airways removed the image, and tweeted an apology 22 minutes later. At this point, the airline had made a mistake, but had apparently dealt with the issue with little more than a few bad headlines. Where US Airways went wrong was in the days following the incident. Any tweets from delayed passengers, any complaints about missing bags or any queries from passengers about their flight went unanswered and ignored.

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As the world was started to forgive and forget about the tweet that caused the crisis in the first place, US Airways gave its passengers a reason to remember it. In times of crisis, taking control of the situation is critical to minimising the damage to your brand reputation. For instance, you need to make sure that the messages being delivered by your social media team are consistent with the messages being delivered by your customer service teams, your sales team and your PR team. An inconsistent message, a disgruntled employee or a department interpreting a message the wrong way can undermine the control that you have over the situation, so make sure that you make everyone in the relevant teams and departments aware of what is happening and how you intend to resolve it.

British music retailer called in the administrators in January , putting 4, employees at risk of redundancy. As time ran out for the company and it became clear that job losses were imminent, the general public were given a window into the sheer level of crisis at HMV through social media. Further tweets, clearly from at least one of the about-to-be redundant employees, were posted, highlighting the level of chaos at the company. The situation highlighted the need for taking control of your social media processes, particularly in situations where multiple employees may have access to your accounts.

One of the biggest reasons why social media crises can spiral out of control is because brands fail to acknowledge their failings and commit to putting them right.

Media Strategies for Marketing Places in Crisis

Instead, understand the nature of the complaint, acknowledge it and state how you intend to use that information to improve in the future. It was a claim that generated a lot of support amongst consumers, who all felt that they were being misled, and it presented a very real challenge to Ruffles.

Ruffles responded to this beautifully, because they know their product inside-out. With a clear vision of how the product is made, they were able to respond eloquently with a graphic explaining how Ruffles are made and just why the air is needed — to protect the crisps! The graphic, published on Facebook, demonstrated the journey from factory to mouth. It was used to respond to those people who had complained in a sensitive way. The brand even took this a step further and produced an enormous bag of Ruffles to evidence just how important the air is!

They took it to the streets of Brazil for people to test out. Lots of brands attempt to address a social media crisis in the same way that they would a PR crisis. Social media is all about human interaction, so be human. People are more likely to believe, trust and even empathise with a human being so come across as a genuine person, not a process of the press office. Sign-offs on your messages, or profiles of your social media team, can be a great way to achieve this.

Greggs received a number of tip-offs from people on social media, to which they responded individually with humorous, personal messages. In the end, after creating the hashtag FixGreggs, the brand turned to a spot of bribery, offering a box full of delicious looking donuts to the people at Google HQ. The approach succeeded in deflecting attention away from what was a potentially huge reputational knock. The tweets sent out by Greggs belied those of a brand that, internally, must have been in absolute chaos as it tried to overcome this particular challenge.

But the approach ultimately won Greggs a lot of support. Social media is an instantaneous form of media, so be prepared to respond quickly. Remember that, on average, you have less than two hours to resolve a social media complaint before that customer is lost for good.

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This is where planning comes into its own. Make sure that you have your response strategy in place before a crisis happens.


Getting various departments around a boardroom table to discuss, debate and agree upon a plan of attack takes time in even the most streamlined of businesses, let alone those with multiple stakeholders and multiple agencies based across different floors, different offices and different time zones. A fast response also helps to slow the momentum of a crisis. If you can get on top of the problem early, you reduce the risk of a social media furore turning into an unstoppable juggernaut that overwhelms the brand.

And people got mad, really mad, about it. However, one of the biggest problems was their timing of the response. The company issued a response at about 3pm on the day after the story broke that the waitress in question had been fired. That, in itself, was too long. They continued commenting until beyond am, replying to individual posts. It was a mess of a recovery. There are some people for whom nothing that you can possibly say will appease.

Make a judgement on how likely your comment is going to aid your cause. McDonalds, along with fast food rival KFC, found themselves at the centre of a social media crisis in China after a TV expose found that a local company was supplying rotten and out of date meat to the fast food chains. During the sting, a local reporter went undercover at the supplier, where a number of food and health standards were being breached. It was a simple statement and it was all that McDonalds said on the matter, raising some concern from some quarters that the response would do little to win around consumers.

However, the response was actually a really good example of knowing that a statement is enough, despite lots of people in China being naturally concerned. Make sure that you have a crisis management in place and circulate this to the relevant stakeholders in the business. Identify a series of social media policies and procedures, which should identify who is responsible for dealing with issues.

This includes everyone from the customer service teams to the CEO. Remember that social media is not a medium so have a plan in place for a crisis that breaks out of office hours.

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  5. Set out a stringent set of policies and procedures for various scenarios. For instance, how are you going to deal with specific customer queries? How are you going to ensure that staff maintain a consistent message whilst under a deluge of tweets? How are you going to manage expectations? Be alert to the threats to your brand on social media. There are lots of social media monitoring tools available to help brands keep on top of how and where they are being discussed on social media. Monitoring could be as simple as setting up a series of Google Alerts, extending up to specialist enterprise-level monitoring tools such as Brandwatch or Trackur.