When in Crisis, Don't Panic

Social media is the number #1 listening tool that is out there. These days, it is very hard for a brand to bury a crisis or hide from the media. I am sure everyone has heard about Chipotle’s contamination crisis resulting into almost 500 E.coli outbreaks among patrons around the nation (this has been quite hard for me, in particular because I LOVE Chipotle and haven’t had it in months). Since the beginning of the crisis, I have taken an interest in tracking how Chipotle has been handling the outbreak via social media, and think they are doing a pretty good job at keeping their customers informed and responding to them in a timely manner.

In the transparent world we live in, you can do more harm than good to your brand by not being honest and responsive in the public eye. Therefore, it is important to know how to handle a social media crisis and what tools are the most effective when monitoring sentiment and influence of your brand. Some of the key tactics to keep in mind when managing a crisis are:

Have a proactive plan in place 

It is important to have a proactive plan rather than reactive plan when addressing a social media crisis. This includes identifying the brand’s weaknesses before the public does and having responses in place so you can take control of any situation when the time comes.

Create a crisis hub 

A crisis hub is a great place to direct customers and stakeholders to one source that has relevant, useful links with up-to-date information. For example, Chipotle created a dedicated page to food safety and the actions they are taking to resolve the E.coli contamination.

Monitor the crisis closely 

It is essential to stay on top of the conversations taking place online regarding the incident. Use of a social media monitoring tools like Sysomos MAP or Radian6 allow you to identify key influencers, understand customer sentiment and monitor online conversations. Platforms, such as TweetDeck or Hootsuite, are also very effective in keeping track of all social media mentions and notifications.

Always keep the customer informed 

To control the conversation around the crisis, it is important to always keep the customers informed and respond to their questions in a timely manner. When answering customers, craft a customized response so they don’t feel like they are talking to a robot. Also, be sure you always update anyone and everyone, so no one is left in the dark.

Own your mistakes 

 When social media crises occur internally, take responsibility for the issue even if your company is not directly to blame. Developing a well thought-out public statement creates a platform for the incident and serves a valid resource to direct customers to. The statement should show compassion and the enterprises’ full commitment to the issue. For example, the Chipotle CEO did a respectable job when he spoke out in an interview with NBC’s Today Show. He publicly apologized to those who have fallen ill after the health scares.

As we know with social media, a crisis can easily spread which can leave a scarlet letter on your brand if not handled correctly. Therefore, remember to plan ahead, communicate proactively, and take matters in your own hands before the public does. And as Olivia Pope would say, “It’s handled.”