Outline: 7 Questions to Ask During A Social Media Crisis

7 Questions to Ask During a Social Media Crisis

No matter how buttoned-up a brand is, a social media crisis is likely to occur at some point in time. And if the past year has taught us anything, it’s that things can change… quickly.

Outline: 7 Questions to Ask During A Social Media Crisis

In a past life, I served as a spokesperson for the Governor of Michigan on business issues. I saw my fair share of PR crises. Since then, Ignite Social Media has also helped several world-famous brands manage social media crises. Our teams have learned a lot over our 14+ years in business, and written the book on some industry-wide best practices that many brands have put in place.

Below we’ve outline some of the most helpful questions that a brand should consider when they find themselves in the midst of a crisis of their own.

7 Questions to Help Evaluate a Social Media Crisis

1) Is It a Social Media Crisis?

This one’s easy, as the answer, regardless of topic, is yes. There used to be PR crises that didn’t touch social media, but that’s no longer the case. Social is where people talk about interesting and controversial topics, plus it’s where people reach out directly to companies. So your crisis strategy has to include social on the front lines. 

2) What Are the Facts of the Situation?

Crises can be fast-moving and the brand often doesn’t have a complete picture. Make an effort to uncover the facts as quickly as you can. In the meantime, don’t be afraid to acknowledge what you know, what you don’t know, and what you’re still trying to determine.

3) Was the Brand at Fault?

Brands often start out believing they are not at fault. But the real question to evaluate is whether a reasonable person would believe the brand contributed to the issue at hand. Imagine the arguments the other side will make and consider how they are likely to resonate with the public generally. Emotional arguments often resonate more than logical arguments, but factually incorrect arguments can be refuted in many situations. 

4) How Can/Should the Brand Show Empathy?

Regardless of whether the brand is the contributor to the issue, a contributor to the issue, or only tangentially involved, people expect brands to at least show empathy. Of course, check with lawyers to make sure what you’re doing doesn’t hurt in a court of law, but also don’t let the lawyers completely dictate the situation. Most crises won’t see a courtroom, but they will very much be judged in the court of public opinion. 

5) What Would You Do Differently if You Knew This Crisis Would Happen?

Now that you’re in a crisis, brands often want to defend themselves by saying they couldn’t have known this would happen. And that may be fair. But the next step may be found by thinking about what you would have done in the past if you’d known that this crisis was likely to happen. 

6) Who in Your Room Is the Voice of the Other Side?

A good social media person or a good PR person should be able to play the role of devil’s advocate. Before you go public with any statement or action, run it by this person (or these people) and ask them to imagine what the other side will say in response. Anticipating these responses can avoid pitfalls and make your statements more resonant, but in the heat of the moment, nobody on your team may want to play that devil’s advocate role. It may have to be encouraged. 

7) Is the Social Team Equipped to Respond Properly and in a Timely Fashion?

Crises are often not 9 to 5 situations. While most won’t expect 24-hour coverage and response, it can be highly likely that your social channels will be lighting up after hours. Do you have coverage? Do you have a team with enough information, savvy, and permission to engage in a constructive way?

Whether a brand is working to prevent a social media crisis or implementing a plan of action to clean up the mess, the questions above can help guide social teams through some tough situations.

If you’re looking for a partner to help plan ahead or get you through an immediate crisis, Ignite Social Media is here for you. Contact our team to get the conversation started.

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