Companies across the globe, big and small, do everything they can to avoid a public relations crisis. If the crisis is unavoidable, there is usually a team of people working behind the scenes to help ensure that the company comes out of the crisis with their reputation as in tact as possible.
What is a PR crisis? Maybe you recall the following:
• Bridgestone Tires – Tire recall (2000)
• Jet Blue – Passengers trapped on runways for hours (2007)
• FedEx – Delivery personnel mishandle holiday packages and damage contents (2011)
• Chipotle – E.coli crisis (2015)
• Rio Olympics – (2016)
With the Rio Olympics set to open tomorrow, there are a number of things that the city of Rio has been plagued with while anticipating the Summer Games, including Zika virus, polluted waters, safety concerns, and bankruptcy — just to name a few. According to www.olympic.org/rio-2016, “the Rio 2016 games will provide the best possible environment for peak performances. Athletes will enjoy world-class facilities, including a superb village, all located in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, in a compact layout for maximum convenience.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Facilities aren’t finished, and waters have not been cleaned up. And as far as the mosquito-borne Zika virus is concerned, officials of Brazil are meeting comments with scorn, responding that August is the start of winter in Brazil, and the virus will not be an issue. Even if that is the case, top athletes are withdrawing from the games as a health precaution, likely causing viewership for their respective sports to drop below network expectations.
What should the city of Rio, major brands, and YOU be doing to tame an unexpected disaster?
1. Organize a strategy.
Do you use social media to communicate with your clients? Creating a social media strategy should include relevant stakeholders, clients, and employees. If a PR issue comes to light, it’s important you communicate to your social team and any third-party company that may be handling your social media that posts should remain positive and professional. You may also want to consider having your employees and vendors sign an agreement stating that there will be consequences for any inappropriate content that can be accessed by the public, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social platforms. Additionally, start using a media monitoring service, like SocialMention or TalkWalker, to help you monitor the web for content that could be damaging to your reputation. Staying on top of this information will help you to be proactive versus reactive.
2. Plan your posts.
It can be very easy to misinterpret the tone of a social media post, text message, or email. This misinterpretation can be heightened during a time of chaos. Pre-plan messaging that your firm may use in response to events that can, and might eventually, occur. Remember that nothing is ever really “deleted” from the internet, and vet your content so that your messages don’t come across as reactionary or unprofessional. In a best-case scenario, you will never encounter a “chaotic event,” but if you do, each event will require a different message; this isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation.
3. Don’t use a crisis as your social media debut.
If you’re going to have social media as part of your marketing and public relations strategy, use it regularly. Do not use a potentially bad situation as your opportunity to give Facebook or Twitter a test run. Your clients and prospects trust you as a financial service provider. They need to know where to turn to for guidance with their money and in times of crisis. Clients need to regularly see your firm’s social page(s) pop up in their newsfeeds to be reminded of your presence and remember that you are a reliable source for retirement trends and product updates. It will be their natural instinct to go to your pages in times of chaos. This is your opportunity to stand out as a calm leader.
4. Encourage involvement.
As clients, prospects, and employees become more aware of your practice’s online presence, they will start to share relevant content. Encourage your followers to share your content! If your state allows, give things away. Consider running a “Share, Like, and Comment” contest to win a prize.* Unsure about your current state statutes? Check with your marketing manager. As your number of followers grows, the trust level in you and your social platforms will grow as well. A trusted platform will lead to more users, which then leads to more exposure as posts get shared.
When combined with a strong strategy, social media is a cost-effective addition to the communication tools you use to further your organization’s efforts.