The arrival of platforms like social media and blogs have granted brands many opportunities to be authentic, transparent, and easily accessible to their audience. Unfortunately, those same platforms of instantaneous communication have also created spaces in which negative narratives can spin out of control faster than ever before.
No brand ever intends to have something happen to their business that negatively affects their online reputation, but since 59% of businesses will face a crisis at some point in their lifespan it makes sense to prepare. Even after your brand navigates its way through a public relations crisis, the after-effects can continue to plague your search results for a long time.
Preparation is key in helping mitigate future problems, so take the time to develop an actionable crisis management plan with your brand’s key stakeholders and communication experts before a crisis strikes. Having a crisis management plan greatly reduces the possibility that a negative or erroneous article will rank in your top search results long-term.
In the following guide, we outline 4 steps you can take that will form the foundation of a crisis response plan for your brand.
Pillar 1: Monitor
The first step is vigilance. Regularly search for your brand in Google to keep track of how it’s being mentioned online. For the best results, search Images, Videos, and News in addition to the web.
Be aware of other niche review sites relevant to your brand, and keep tabs on what their communities are saying about you. Monitor social media channels, as those sites typically don’t police the content shared and content can go viral in a matter of hours.
Don’t forget to stay on top of any user-generated content on your site such as comments or reviews (if applicable). Often, responding to any disgruntled or unhappy feedback can diffuse a problem before it spirals out of control.
Pillar 2: Be Proactive
Optimize your presence on your online profiles and platforms, and have a regular schedule for updates and rolling out content. When a sensational or harmful story about your business is published, media outlets will syndicate the content to cover the story quickly while the news is breaking. A study conducted by ING about the impact of social media on news found that almost half of the surveyed journalists try to publish as quickly as possible and then, if necessary, correct erroneous information later.
Having a solid foundation of active communication channels will go a long way in preventing negative press from dominating the conversation around your brand. For a more comprehensive approach, consider hiring a professional crisis management team.
Pillar 3: Take Action
It’s critical to make sure that your response team is thoroughly trained and empowered to handle a variety of crisis situations.
In the IT sector for example, 95% of successful hacking attacks were caused by some form of human error. Use tact in communications, as a miscalculated response can escalate the situation. Make sure that you have all the facts in order before issuing any statements; a swift response is important, but a fully informed response is even more so.
Pillar 4: Review and Learn
After navigating your brand out of a crisis situation, take a moment to analyze the efficacy of your plan and shift your focus back onto building public trust and opinion.
Recovering your search results from a crisis can take time. If your brand normally has a strong presence in the results, a negative “In the News” article may rank and stay in the top results soon after it’s published.
It’s important to shift the digital conversation back to news that reflects well on your brand’s reputation, even if the event was a false positive or an erroneous story about your brand.