[cross posted] Marketers need to understand that the dynamics of conversations with online audiences have fundamentally changed. The lessons from Motrin, Dell, WalMart, JetBlue and others that have been called out by bloggers, Twitter-storms and others enabled by social media is not a passing fad, but something that needs to be recognized as a new marketing reality. As such, marketing organizations need policies for when (not if) there is a backlash to something that their organization has done that is unpopular.
The following is a broad outline of a social media crisis policy:
- Establish Employee Awareness: Empower employees to participate in social media while reminding them that this participation is very public for co-workers (past, current and future), customers, prospects and competitors. Put simply, employees should be smart.
- Crisis Levels: Agree on the categories of a crisis. Include how your organization responds to each level and who should engage. Provide this list to everyone in your organization. For the individuals responsible for responding during the crisis (ideally your PR and Community manager) provide the proper PR crisis training.
- Listen: Ensure that you are listening on all social media channels with the appropriate alerts. There are a wide range of powerful tools from Radian6 to Techrigy or the free tools such as TweetBeeps or Google Alerts. Social media is now providing incredible real time feedback to brands. Quick response can prevent escalation.
- Engage: Directly engage in the conversation within the medium (blog comments, twitter, ect) during a crisis. Yes, PR and Marketing teams - you need Twitter accounts! Be sincere and honest in your conversations. It is far more likely that you will be judged more by how you react to the crisis than by the marketing miss-step that is being discussed.
- Apologize and move on: Depending on the guidelines that you have agreed on for the crisis level, swiftly make the appropriate apology, both in the original medium (Twitter, blog comments, etc) and a mass medium (website and Youtube - again depending on crisis level) and move on.
We have seen various companies react differently, what would you add or change? Please add to the comments below.