The way crises form, spread and how they should be treated has changed with social media. Maybe, we are a little more used to crises in Turkey compared to other countries. We can act more calmly. Turkey is one of the leading countries when it comes to the rates of social media use . It’s one of the best places to test crisis management and take lessons from, in this social media age. We’ve already been through many incidents that other countries will face in the future. That’s why we have a great deal of experience we can share.
I want to share these experiences in the form of an action plan. Step by step, I’ll tell you what to do. There is no one single truth of course, but I’ll share our advices for every step.
Preparation Is A Must
There is one factor we overlook in marketing while creating value. That is “eliminating the risks”. You may have created more powerful brands and more revenue with your marketing activities. That’s an achievement. Similarly, eliminating the risks of interference with the permanence of this revenue is also an achievement. And it also increases your brand value. Just like people who become more concerned about their health once they’ve lost it; brands see how precious and important it is to be prepared in a crisis.
That’s why everyone in your company needs to be competent in social media. Corporate social media policies are recommended often but I have to say that they won’t be taken into consideration if they look like user manuals. You should prefer policies that are as simple and short as possible. And, lastly, you need to have tools that can be used to monitor and manage the crisis, just like the fire extinguishers that people use in case of a fire. For instance, you should prepare a crisis meeting room and get ready to follow what people are talking about and what the hottest topic is simultaneously. I particularly recommend crisis management room because it’s hard to create instant coordination between distant teams.
Are Your Relationships Ready?
Social media is a world where everyone is equal and no one owns the communication channels. Brands are actually very lonely and powerless between millions of other users. On social media, you need to create “brand friends”. Maybe, after a while, we’ll measure success on social media with the number of “brand friends” we’ve made instead of fan numbers of our pages. Brand friends know you, trust you and defend you when it’s necessary. They know about your brand’s values and its human side because you’ve built a relationship beforehand. People who will defend your brand on social media most effectively are these brand friends. Brands should trigger this process proactively, find their brand friends, listen to them and strengthen their relationships because it’s very dangerous to be alone on social media.
Do You Know Your Stakeholders?
Knowing your stakeholders is very important for crisis-time communication. In view, the biggest group of stakeholders are your customers. However, employees and internal communication are as crucial as stakeholders. In a crisis, the spirits and the attitude of people are very important. It must be one of your top priorities to share the current situation with your team, lead them and keep their spirits up. In short, you should focus on keeping your team powerful and motivated first. And then, you need to study your stakeholders carefully before choosing a strategy.
For example, you’ve identified your customers as stakeholders. There are many different subsegments such as existing customers, new customers, people who react excessively etc. and different motivations for each subsegment. It’s important to create a stakeholders map and think about their motivations and communication channels that lead to them. And lastly, you shouldn’t forget that you have different stakeholders like suppliers, government, journalists and investors apart from your customers.
Choice of A Strategy
The stakeholder map you’ve created will be the base of your strategy. Although it may change instance to instance, you shouldn’t spend too much time for building a strategy because generally the current situation changes at an unpredictable rate. At this point, scenario analysis is a priceless asset and the best management way is to keep the team updated with short and frequent meetings. There are some strategic decisions you need to make: “What’s your message?”, “What’s your attitude?”, “How will you create plausibility?”, “Will there be any official statements made? How frequent will they be?”
Micro Management /Know Your Tools
You need to know your resources and communication channels in order to apply your strategy. Of course, the most important ones will be your social media channels. However, you should know that the communication campaign run on these channels won’t reach many people. You can make your messages reach bigger crowds by supporting them with Facebook and Twitter ads. You need to make a true analysis of your already existing tools and platforms, such as e-mailing, press releases, statements on your web pages and stores; and you should analyze how and when you can use them.
Another important issue is “micro management”. Think about it, thousands of people are speaking against your brand on social media. What should you do? Should you answer all of them or remain silent? Should you use corporate accounts to answer them? I personally recommend a third solution: Your crisis team can express that they’re company employees and answer those people with their real Twitter accounts. Although, again, it changes from instance to instance, giving an answer is much better than not saying anything. Correcting misinformations as fast as possible prevents crises from getting bigger. The reason I recommend to use employees’ accounts is that by doing this you’ll start a dialogue instead of just “answering” and it’ll feel more convincing and genuine.
Abundant Records, Abundant Information Flow
In a crisis, you need to collect as much material as possible to communicate through and when necessary, defend yourselves with. If your job is related to some kind of a “field”, your field teams should definitely take as many photos with their smartphones as possible. During crisis management, you need to search for materials that will provide you with advantage. These might be security camera recordings, interviews with witnesses, statistics about the company etc. Keep them prepared in order to build a strategy and share when necessary. And lastly, when it comes to social media tracking, finding positive comments, marking them and making sure that they are seen by many others are also parts of the job.
Making Statements On Social Media
In the social media age, there are also some things you need to be careful about while making statements. First of all, timing is crucial. We’ve seen that in “Gezi Parkı” events. There were days in which almost 5 million messages were shared. If you want to make a statement about any situation in a world where conversation is this fast, it’s better you make it as early as you can. And don’t forget that people don’t read on the internet. The more you visualize and simplify your messages the more probable that they will be read. In some instances, if the CEO of the company is an influential person on social media, it’ll be beneficial to let him make the first explanation. Finally, use advertising channels actively in order to get your messages heard by the right people on social media.
Crises, if they are treated right, can turn into big opportunities. Don’t forget that your customers will remember you with your attitude in these crises. Other memories will fade away but the ones in crises won’t. We don’t have to be perfect and we don’t have to choose a side but we have to be sensitive, all the time. What people actually appreciate is this sensitivity that brands show.