It's every brand's nightmare: a tweet goes viral for all the wrong reasons. Things move so fast on Twitter that it doesn't matter whether the viral story is about a hot-button topic, a poorly executed joke, a product gone bad, or staff tweeting from the wrong account, the crisis can boil over in an instant and has the potential to ruin the brand's reputation.
The best way to handle a crisis on Twitter is to be prepared before it even happens. A crisis management plan doesn't have to be an extensive document, but it should include these sections:
- Defined roles for each member of your team
- The definition of a crisis, with a scale of urgency for potential issues and corresponding response tactics
- Identify approved messages that can be used in most circumstances
- Communication guidelines that include who may deal with each level of crises
- Standards for monitoring crises including how tools will be used
This plan will make sure that your team has defined steps to follow when a crisis unfolds. Once you've identified that a crisis is occurring, here are four more tips to help navigate the waters of a Twitter meltdown.
Before any statement is issued, it's important to monitor the situation and understand exactly what the problem is. If need be, reach out to select users to ask clarifying questions on the matter to understand what the crisis is centred on. Only once you understand the mistake can you craft an appropriate statement.
Keep Emotions in Check
The stress of a public relations crisis can be overwhelming, but the best thing you can do is keep a level head. Emotional, impassioned responses can be interpreted as deflecting the issue or denying it, and the very last thing that you want to do is correct, call out, or otherwise negatively engage users. This will only make the situation worse, and create more issues for you to address and apologize for.
Pro Tip: This is where pre-approved messages will come in handy. Posting a message that alerts the public to the fact that you are investigating the issue will buy a little time for you to watch the situation, calm your nerves, and release a full statement.
Address the Problem Head-On
It isn't easy to eat crow, but sometimes it's just a part of life! Being direct and to the point in your statement about the crisis will generally curry favour with the public, while also showing that you are in control of the situation.
Once the situation has been handled and the hubbub dies down, make sure to sit down with your entire team to discuss the situation, how it was handled, and any lessons learned during the crisis. If part of your crisis management plan was incorrect or did not work, now is the time to update it before anything else occurs.
Remember that you can't avoid a public relations crisis, but you can handle it with grace and dignity.