It may be true that you can’t be ready for everything. But when it comes to social media and reputation management, you can prepare for crazy.
Crazy, when you’re a community manager or social media strategist, is something that you have no control of whatsoever – but impacts reputation both on and offline. It is not a mistake – at least not a core strategy mistake.
It isn’t a bad review or campaign hashtag hijacking ora handful of angry bloggers trying to stir up negative sentiment.
Crazy is out of control and sometimes chaotic. Brands and organizations are thrown in the middle of a swirling storm of negative sentiment, angry audiences, negative media coverage and many demanding answers to questions they may not be able – or qualified – to answer.
Those who rise above these situations prepare for crazy, whether they know it or not. Because crazy is not a tweet you can delete or something smoothed over with an apology. Crazy is often life or death for a brand.
Fortunately, not only can you prepare for crazy, but you can funnel that crazy right to your brand’s advantage. Learn the keys to preparation from winners who have handled unavoidable situations with grace under fire.
cultivate a community to call on
A brand’s most important ally is their community. Your community may be affected when the crazy comes, but that doesn’t mean that all is lost – in fact, sometimes your greatest supporters arise in times of crisis.
The Livestrong Foundation probably knew this was coming – but that doesn’t mean the blow struck to the nonprofit that provides support for people affected by cancer was any less when Lance Armstrong, its founder and (now ex) chairman, was stripped of his Tour de France titles and banned for life from cycling.
Plenty of negative sentiment arose quickly and flooded social media regarding Livestrong, especially as the finances of the organization were under scrutiny as well. Even Gawker published a post entitled “Take Off Your God Damn Livestrong Bracelets.”
Livestrong president Doug Ulman and community manager Brooke McMillan felt it was important for the organization to be vocal, rather than ignore the situation or stay under the radar until the media storm cleared.
Livestrong’s message was never about supporting Armstrong, its mission is “to inspire and empower cancer survivors and their families.”
By sharing others’ stories about why they wore their Livestrong bracelets, Livestrong combated the negative “take off your bracelet” sentiments in a way that promoted their message while owning part of the conversation around the controversy.
Livestrong reacted quickly with both on and offline campaigns to help grow this positive conversation on social media and offline regarding the nonprofit in a way to encourage these people to continue vocally supporting not just the foundation – but others in their community facing cancer.
When you’re already under scrutiny, as brands are during a crisis, you can’t fake positive sentiment (sorry Chik Fil A). Not only is artificial conversation less powerful but also if you’re caught it only engenders more negative feelings.
If Livestrong hadn’t already been cultivating their community around their message of inspiration and empowerment, it would have been that much more difficult for them to not only have people share stories but also drive the conversation in a focused way.
This reaffirms: social media is more than something you just do because everyone’s doing it. You must have a purpose. Even when a brand is selling a product, rather than being a nonprofit with a mission, they are not only selling product: they are selling an experience.
By having coherent content and social strategy that is reflected on social channels, brand fans will already be well aware of this message – in fact, that is probably why these people are supporters of your brand.
It is important to constantly build your community around brand mission and messaging so that members will be the first ones to speak up on your behalf in crisis – and their words will always be more powerful than a statement from a CEO.
use to maintain momentum
The LA Kings won the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history in June 2012. What was a major boost for the team’s reputation and reach both on and offline – to top it off, the Kings social media accounts were becoming widely known for their playful and witty tone.
All of this was threatened to be short-lived due to the NHL lockout.
The lockout presented more than just a challenge to create new types of content consistently that wasn’t based on the typical topics – it added further impediment for team marketing both on and offline, as there were strict guidelines as to what the team was allowed to both say and do.
Rather than go silent, the Kings social media team decided to both combat the negative sentiment being directed at the NHL and continue to stir up fans’ positive post-Cup winning loyalty by producing entertaining content and bringing fans together while still following the NHL’s rules and maintaining the witty social media “voice” of the Kings.
They posted photos of the Stanley Cup all over the world on their social media accounts with witty messages. They gave fans a peek at the players off the ice so they could get to know the team better. They found opportunities to put their players front and center and create shareable content consistently.
Most importantly, after the lockout ended, the Kings had a strategy for bringing any fans lost to the lockout back in the fold by focusing on what mattered – community and winning another championship.
“Our CEO Tim Lewieke made a point to say that our fans didn’t want the free parking, free hot dogs or free sodas as much as they wanted another Stanley Cup Championship,” Dewayne Hankins, Director of Digital Media at AEG Sports, said. “Once the lockout ended, we made a pledge to donate $1 million to the LA Community, and then we wanted to move on and start preparing for the season.”
Never see crazy as defeat or a reason to sit back until it blows over - and don’t let it stop your momentum. Keep rolling – but adjust to a different direction while still maintaining brand focus and voice.
Give your community an “insider” look into different aspects of your organization so they will not only feel valued by your brand but also will encourage them to continue engaging on and offline. Create visually-based content that is easily shareable to maintain interest and have fans sharing with both fans and nonfans.
Basic Tips for Keeping Crazy in Check
Remain transparent. Face the issue head on. Know who on your team is best to handle the situation.
If the situation requires it be addressed on social media, do so. If the situation requires the audience be addressed – especially if it is directly related to business practices – don’t ignore strong negative sentiment, it will only cause it to grow.
Be as creative and proactive as possible. The situation may be unpredictable, but this doesn’t mean you can delay dealing with it. In fact, knowing how others have successfully handled PR crises will give you ideas on how to manage your own.
Create content and engage in a way that makes your audience feel valuable. Chances are they are angry, confused or both. Let social listening guide your next steps.
See this as an opportunity – your brand will already being receiving media coverage. Even if something negative has occurred, this does not mean it is too late to turn sentiment around to something positive.
- Give those who still feel positive a platform. Find a way to encourage those who still feel good about your brand to share how they feel and provide a space for them to do so. The outpouring of positive may diminish the negative.