Since the induction of the new administration, brands have quickly realized
that a single tweet from the commander-in-chief can impact their stock.
General Motors, Lockheed Martin and now Nordstrom have all been subject to
criticism—and for better or worse,
their share value fell for a time.
We’ve watched several companies over the last few months learn this lesson
the hard way. When the new immigration restrictions were announced, Uber
learned its lesson through
a series of missteps and communication lags, whereas main competitor Lyft donated $100 million to the ACLU and became
a media darling.
There is bad publicity in not taking action fast enough. In Uber’s case, it
led to a loss of customers and
its CEO’s leave from the president’s advisory council. Uber made efforts to tell the public and its customers that it would
support employees who were potentially subject to the travel ban, but it
was too late.
What Businesses Can Learn from #DeleteUber
Our point? Silence or poor communication timing can cost your brand more than just customers; it can cost you your
reputation and image.
Leaders (that’s you) must prepare for a new kind of market, where your
brand will be scrutinized on everything, including your associations. This
is why organizations and their leaders must have a go-to strategy prepared
in their back pockets in the event that customers and the community raise
Luckily, there are two cornerstones of your business that can play an
integral part here: public relations
social media marketing. Though distinctions between the two are far reaching, they are also
complementary. These combined platforms play a major supporting role in the
time of a crisis.
7 Steps for Maintaining Your Composure in Times of Crisis
1. Crisis management begins before there is an issue.
With activism burgeoning at the forefront of company priorities, consumers
are looking to organizations to ensure they follow a similar set of ethos.
As of late, organizations are stepping forward and stating where they stand
on divisive issues, putting a stake in the ground around topics of company
policy and corporate responsibility. Why? Customers base their buying
behavior on what a company supports or doesn’t support—not on silence.
This is where social media helps companies tap into crucial conversations
and connect with their existing and potential customers in a meaningful
Because social media interactions typically occur in a public forum, your
followers are the first to know about what you are backing and how exactly
this is done. Whether it’s through an announcement to support a cause, a
donation to a particular charity or a campaign to raise awareness for a
particular organization, your audience will respect your brand’s active
stance on key issues.
This this kind of goodwill is welcome, but it’s not enough for a PR team to
work with. Saying, “Hey! We are doing this fantastic thing” appears
self-serving and tacky—and it can backfire.
Instead, work with your PR team to iron out specific messaging and a
narrative on the topic. Should questions come up, both teams will have
aligned answers for their customers (and for members of the news media).
4 Hallmarks of Leadership in a Time of Crisis
It is also important to be aware of and eliminate blind spots.
If your company has vulnerabilities, inform PR pros so they can support you
by determining how to discuss the issue. If your PR team has been working
hard on maintaining your relationship with reporters, then those reporters
will be your lifeline when you need to manage public perception.
On the other hand, if they are working in the dark and unaware of your
vulnerabilities, when a problem comes up, they might not be able to react
as quickly as you require—which will only hurt your company.
2. When a problem hits, the first place you might hear about it is
Once your messaging is in place, you can use social media to help your
customers better understand your position.
By leveraging the ability to have real-time conversations with your
community, you can mitigate issues early on by addressing it through
individual interactions (e.g. comments and direct messages) and through
posted public announcements on your social platforms.
This way, you maintain control of your message, address customer concerns
as they come in and foster vital conversations among your community that
will enable them to advocate for your brand.
If the issue can potentially move beyond your customer universe and into
mainstream media, it is time to consider PR and decide the next step. You
must be agile and switch directions as fast as the news cycle.
Public relations will serve as a lifeline, to clarify or explain things to
your customers and the public. For instance, if you messed up, acknowledge
it and disclose how you are working to solve the issue.
Business leaders should always be prepared to manage a crisis, so when it
emerges there is a swift and deliberate action plan in place. During a
crisis, reaction speed and tactics can run as the principal decision makers
Why Big Businesses Must Proactively Manage Their Online Reputations
3. Speed shouldn’t replace overall strategy.
An organization’s reaction time increases when you have a proactive PR plan
working to establish your message with customers and the public.
In order for brand managers to mitigate potential negative public sentiment
and sooth any push back from customers, it is crucial to have a
well-balanced, collaborative crisis communications strategy.
PR and social media must work in tandem in order to cultivate a 360-degree
plan of action that’ll help insulate your brand and maintain control over
your brand message. By combining forces across all of your media channels,
you will ensure that your business will ready to tackle anything that may
Andrea Holland and Sarah Elder are co-founders
of PR Traction. A version of this article originally appeared
on Entrepreneur. Copyright © 2017 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.