Companies rely on the online environment for their business operations. They have a multinational audience for their goods and services and can create longer-lasting bonds. Organizations such as Amazon owe their good fortune to the Internet economy. Actually, if it weren’t for the Web, Amazon may not have become Earth’s biggest retailer. However, the Internet can also become a breeding ground for organizational online crisis.
Many online crises can strike close to home. Regardless of your business size, you may have to deal with reputation problems with various degrees of seriousness at one point or another. If you’re not trained to deal with situations of this kind, managing them can be difficult. In this article, you’ll discover effective tips on how to handle an online crisis.
Listen Better and Be Fully Present
McDonald’s is planning to ditch plastic straws. The company recently announced that, starting in September, it will use only plastic straws in UK and Ireland restaurants. This move is powered by the customer-led campaign to cut down on plastic waste. McDonald’s is one of those companies that practice active listening and challenges itself to deliver better service. Consumers think it’s essential for brands to listen and respond thoughtfully.
If you find yourself dealing with a disruptive and unexpected online crisis like this one, listen to people when they suggest improvements. Use social media to reply to customers’ questions. Customers are contacting you in the channel they prefer and expect you to respond. Use these tips to get better results:
- Figure out where people talk about you. Monitor digital conversations to see what people are saying about your brand by looking for brand mentions, specific keywords, and phrases and comments. The conversation about your brand may be different on Facebook than it’s on LinkedIn.
- Study the competition. Be proactive in your efforts and learn from the competition. Take a close look at how the competitors react to certain situations and see if you can do the same. It’s not recommended to copy someone else’s strategy, but it pays to watch out for mistakes. Learn what to do and what not to do.
- Use social listening tools. You can’t read people’s minds, yet you can gain access to what they are saying about your brand. Tools like Hootsuite help you monitor conversations on social media and respond instantly. Even if you have a team managing your social media empire, it’s still a good idea to use specialized tools.
Address the Situation Instead of Sugar Coating It
The tracks you leave behind when putting information online or interacting on social media are permanent, just like a tattoo. Others can affect your online reputation by simply talking about your business. A negative digital footprint doesn’t benefit you. As a matter of fact, it’s a recipe for disaster. By confronting issues as they arise, you can stop problems before they escalate.
Address the situation, but don’t sugar coat it or pretend there aren’t any issues at all. Customers don’t want to hear sugar-coated answers to everything. They want good answers. Be honest when trying to navigate the storm. Telling the truth is better than lying. Keep in mind that people have a good memory and proof to back it up.
Your company must tell the truth and nothing but the truth. White lies are bad for business. Lying is a bad strategy in an online crisis situation if it’s discovered. Recognize there’s a problem, even if you didn’t anticipate the unpleasant situation and you’re not able to offer solutions for the time being. Lies are still lies and clients don’t want to find out the information they’re receiving isn’t true.
Manage the Crisis Through Social Media
So, you have an online crisis on your hands which has come out of the blue and affects everyone. If you want to come safely through this difficult period, use social media networks to respond to customers. If you want to shut down the problem from the very beginning, this is what you need to do:
You have to communicate a difficult situation. Twitter allows you to rapidly respond during a crisis. But how do you get around the issue? Here’s a best-practice example: @ KFC. Last year, the beloved brand had to deal with a pretty embarrassing situation. More precisely, it used up their food supplies in most UK and Ireland restaurants. KFC did its best to answer questions via social media almost every day.
YouTube can turn out to be a useful tool in online crisis management. Use this channel to apologize to your customers. It’s the fastest way to make a public statement about an ongoing situation. Let’s take an example. Eurostar’s passengers got trapped in trains overnight a couple of years ago. At the time, the chief executive, Richard Brown, made a statement which was published on a video-sharing website.
In times of negativity, you have to own the situation. Use your Facebook fan page to supply an excellent response. When people are angry, they go to the fan page to post comments. They may not have something nice to say. So? If Toyota can de-escalate a digital crisis, so can you. The leading brand managed to overcome nightmare situations over the years. Right now, they constantly update the fan page, responding to complaints and issues.
You’ll spend hours deciding what content to post on social media. But how much time will you spend proofing and editing your posts? Chances are that not enough. Before you hit the Publish button, go through the content one more time and make sure it’s error-free. Use online tools such as GrabMyEssay, ProWritingAid, and Ginger Software.
Hand in hand with the above tip, it’s a good idea to check your work for plagiarism. The biggest mistake you can make is creating a plagiarism problem. Use tools like Copyscape, WOWGrade, and Copyleaks. If you want to be forgiven, use your own words.
Last but not least, you’ll want to keep track of your word count. Don’t write too much in your social media posts. The ideal length is 100 characters, so make sure to use Easy Word Count and SupremeDissertations. If you’re posting on Facebook, you can go a little bit over with the posts.
Use Your Leadership Brand and Practice Humility
Your brand has everything to do with how effective you manage the online crisis situation. Since this is a very delicate situation, handle it with the utmost delicacy. Ignore the technical aspect of the problem and focus your attention on negative media attention, customer relationships, and, most importantly, the psychological burnout of the employees.
Most companies have a written plan for situations of this kind. If you don’t, you can improvise along the way. Project confidence because everyone will look up to you or reassurance. The work environment can easily transform into a toxic one. This is all due to negative emotions. Give staff members time to cool off. Take control of the situation and stop the panic from spreading. Think of how you would feel if you were in their shoes.
When embracing a crisis, you must practice humility. This means owning up to your mistakes. Mistakes will happen no matter how careful you are, so you have no option but to embrace them with transparency and humility. Learn from the incident and protect your long-term reputation.
Fill the Internet with Positive News
Get your company positively highlighted in the news. People shouldn’t dread to check their news feed in the morning. When prospective clients google you, they’ll come across the details. Improve the odds of customers finding good news about you on the Internet. Don’t simply publish news on your website. You should better send relevant information to the editors of the most influential magazines in the industry. Send them stories every now and then and see if they would like further details.
Make sure you don’t miss out on opportunities like:
- Showing up at exhibitions
- Speaking at conferences
- Announcing corporate developments
- Announcing new products or services
This will certainly help you tip the scale in your favor. Be consistent with your brand image. Tell your story the way you want it to be told. You can consider sharing things about yourself, such as details relating to your life and career. Show people that you’re not the bad guy and it wasn’t your intention to let them down. Everybody makes mistakes, but not everyone’s willing to own up to them. Confirm that you’re running a business that cares about clients and is willing to do anything to see them happy.
It’s more important than ever to make the transition to online retail and it’s pretty clear what businesses have to lose by failing to do so. Today, if you’re not visible online, you don’t exist. Unfortunately, the online environment can cause irreparable damage to your company’s reputation. Every photo, comment, and tweet can follow you forever. This doesn’t mean you’re the innocent victim of false accusations or wrongful attacks. Take responsibility and do what true leaders do in an online crisis.
About the author
Estelle Liotard is a seasoned content writer and a blogger, with years of experience in different fields of marketing. She is a content editor at Trust My Paper and loves every second of it. Her passion is teaching people how to overcome digital marketing obstacles and help businesses communicate their messages to their customers.