3 Communication Strategies to Address a Social Media Crisis

CSI - Courtroom Sciences Inc.

A social media crisis can strike at any time, with the devastating potential to hurt your organization’s ability to do business. Social media has fundamentally changed the way the world shares information, meaning regardless of whether a crisis originates online or offline, the reality is that social media platforms equip users with the ability to make accusations, whether founded or unfounded, in front of a worldwide audience. Because social media moves with such blazing speed, when an adverse narrative captures the attention of the social media mob, it can rapidly become amplified, resulting in more widespread mainstream media coverage and ultimately culminating in financial loss for the organization. 

Organizations may feel as if social media users demand justice without caring about due process. In such an exacting environment, there aren’t many do-overs, and sometimes the very act of trying to repair an initial poor response can take things from bad to worse. Courtroom Sciences knows that because it has to be right the first time, preparation is key. Companies can learn how to mitigate the risks of a social media crisis, and the ensuing fallout, by implementing three psychology-based crisis communications strategies intended to prevent, mitigate, manage, and recover from a crisis situation. 

How do I handle a social media crisis?

In that most crises are predictable, successful social media crisis mitigation starts with preparation. From there, organizations must focus on effective communication strategies and tactics, adapting as the crisis unfolds and focusing on creating the right narrative. Finally, companies should consider reputation repair strategies where they may clarify the organization’s core values. 

Crisis Communications Strategy #1: Prevent a Crisis Before it Begins

Crises frequently come when they’re least expected, which is why the optimal way to handle a social media crisis is through prevention and mitigation. The positive news is that most crises are predictable by effectively identifying unique areas of vulnerability through careful scenario planning. 

Central to enterprise risk management (ERM) is first evaluating the guidelines and standards a company currently has in place and then implementing, if necessary, updated policies that reinforce ethical business practices, customer-focused behaviors, and standards of conduct for all employees. It’s crucial that these guidelines meet or exceed current standards of public scrutiny. Not only having but consistently reinforcing the right standards provides employees with an appropriate baseline for how to respond in a crisis situation.

Key to crisis preparation is knowing the particulars of where your company is most vulnerable. A social media crisis could originate from any number of scenarios, including technological failure that results in a data breach, compliance issues due to organizational practices, changes to staff such as employee furloughs, financial losses, or natural disasters. In order to avoid potential catastrophe, organizations cannot wait until a crisis hits to begin planning and preparing. 

Crisis Communications Strategy #2: Utilize Effective Communication Strategies

Social media platforms represent both the provocateur of the crisis as well as the tool needed to quell the potential scandal, but only if it can be used strategically. During a crisis, there are no do-overs. In many cases trying to repair an initial poor response could make circumstances worse, so when a situation occurs, organizations need to be fully prepared.

One of the biggest mistakes that companies tend to make when facing a social media crisis is becoming defensive, rushing to defend both themselves and their perspective instead of focusing their messaging on the viewpoint of their audience. In order to dispel the situation, a company must first understand the psychology of groups. They can do this by recognizing the point of view of their detractors, seeing the situation through their eyes, and acknowledging what they might be right about. This psychological exercise is the foundation an organization needs to gain the proper clarity so they can be prepared to formulate an effective response.

In developing a response, organizations must be prepared to communicate with both key stakeholders and with the public at large. The crisis response should be focused on creating a narrative that establishes credibility by taking responsible actions, working to understand what caused the issue, and defining how the company will address it. Companies also need to be adaptable, willing to keep evolving as the situation changes to maintain credibility.

Crisis Communications Strategy #3: Recover and Rebuild Your Reputation

The majority of reputations that are damaged due to a social media crisis occur when a company is perceived to be lying, incompetent, or uncaring in its response. These kinds of responses demonstrate a significant rift with the values of a company’s stakeholders. To recover and rebuild a company's reputation, they must realign their company values, establishing that they are in sync with those of their key constituents. 

To accurately determine the wants and needs of a company’s important stakeholder groups, it’s beneficial to conduct psychology-based research. Once an organization has pinpointed these key interests, the company must actively communicate how things have changed, and their actions ought to demonstrate genuine resolve for adhering to those changes. If the transformation is authentic, the public is likely to give the organization another chance. 

At Courtroom Sciences, we understand that how a company responds in the first hour of a crisis can have legal impacts further down the line. Social media crises demand a sophisticated approach, and Courtroom Sciences has adapted our psychology-based techniques to elevate how crisis communications are practiced. Mitigate the risks of a social media crisis by ensuring that your company’s crisis team includes social psychology practitioners who are adept at creating psychology-based messaging that will resonate in a crisis situation. Speak with one of our critical communications experts to get started. 

Key Takeaways

●  A social media crisis has the potential to hurt your organization’s ability to do business.

●  How a company responds in the first hour of a crisis can have legal impacts further down the line.

●  Companies can mitigate the risks of a social media crisis by implementing three psychology-based strategies. 

●  CSI can help organizations create psychology-based messaging that will resonate in a crisis situation.

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