5 tips for using influencers to alleviate a crisis

When working to preserve your reputation and respond honestly to a PR catastrophe, your social media connections can save the day. Here’s what PR pros should know.

In an ideal world, your organization will never have to endure a PR calamity.

You will never have a single recall, product shortage, service outage, miscommunication or upset customer.

Of course, the less delightful reality is that most businesses will eventually be faced with some sort of PR stumbling block, whether it’s an unflattering social media review or a debacle that threatens your company’s performance.

When you’re in the midst of a crisis, it’s all hands on deck to mitigate the damage, but the good news is that you have a surprisingly powerful set of assets to help boost your image and convey your sincerity in making things right: influencers.

During tough times, influencer marketing can be an incredibly valuable tool to help manage developing situations and bolster the positive messaging you want out in the world.

Here are five key points to consider before activating influencers during a crisis:

1. Be transparent.

It’s imperative to move quickly when it comes to addressing the issue and/or apologizing. Companies who delay acknowledging the problem will only make things worse, especially in today’s environment of lightning-fast social media.

Don’t shy away from the facts of what happened or how your brand has been received. Communicate with your influencers to make sure they’re aware of how you’re working to resolve the situation, and encourage them to use their own authentic voice when addressing any crisis-related messaging.

In the wake of a PR crisis, consumers want immediate, sincere information, and they definitely don’t want any corporate jargon.

The best defense is a good offense. By empowering influencers to get real about your brand misstep, you can minimize the negative spin and begin engaging in the kinds of active conversations that help repair reputations and even generate positive buzz.

2. Tap into existing relationships.

It’s important to have those strong influencer relationships in place before a crisis hits. These are the influential people who can not only spark the valuable conversations and content that drive engagement and revenue, they can change the way your brand is perceived.

Influencers are tapped into what their audiences want and how they feel. They have product expertise, know how to develop targeted knowledge and have a built-in connection with their followers.

Avoid bringing in a wave of new influencers only as a response to a negative situation. Instead, leverage existing relationships to focus on strong communication goals and community engagement.

3. Make sure influencers know the plan.

When a crisis is underway, your influencer marketing campaign should include a comprehensive response plan. If questions or negative comments come up on influencer posts, they should never go ignored or unanswered. Know who’s going to be responsible for these communications, and what the message should be.

Influencers should be prepped with the basics for questions their audiences may ask, but the real work should be done by the brand. This isn’t a burden, it’s actually an amazing opportunity, not only to publicly demonstrate your openness and honesty, but to directly connect with consumers in a meaningful way.

For negative or angry posts, or complicated questions, take the conversation offline. Ask for an email dialogue or a phone call, but be sure to actually follow up.

4. When in doubt, wait it out.

If your brand was just under fire for a serious faux pas and news articles are still circulating at a fast and furious pace, it might be prudent to take a beat before launching your next influencer campaign. Depending on the severity of the crisis, the better strategy could involve planning out a future campaign based on what people are most concerned about.

You’ll know the biggest concerns, because people will be talking about them! This is when to really pay attention to social media; people won’t be shy in telling you what they expect from your response.

Use this information to craft your upcoming influencer activities. While it’s okay to wait on running a new campaign, don’t hesitate to acknowledge the situation. Transparency is key.

5. Check your search engine results.

Even long after the dust has settled, search engine results resurface past transgressions. You can help clear up any lingering bad press with influencer marketing. Influencer blog posts, videos, and social media campaigns help you populate search engine results with relevant, current and positive brand content.

A great influencer campaign can shift opinions about your brand, drive conversations, and boost sales—and it’s exactly the kind of SEO you’re looking for. Be sure to have influencers use the same product name across the board, circulate their content as much as possible and plan to regularly engage wherever your brand is mentioned.

Eventually, Google will reflect your hard work with positive associations that far outweigh yesterday’s misstep.

Danielle Wiley is the CEO of Sway Group, an influencer marketing agency.

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