You should regularly audit your crisis management plan even if it's unlikely your business will suffer the scale of PR crisis that the likes of Dominos, Toyota and NestlÃ© have recently had to deal with.
I regularly talk about needing to monitor online communications channels to see what other people are saying about you. But monitoring is simply not enough. You also need to “fire drill” your crisis management plan to make sure your organisation can handle a social media firestorm.
Can you, for example, get a video from your CEO up on YouTube in 2 hours? Or embed it in your Facebook Fan Page, and then tweet it out to all your followers at anytime of the day or night?
And what happens if you haven't even set up channels for your brand on sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc?
Silence won't handle a crisis
Burying your head in the sand or traditional crisis management procedures that typically rely on written press releases and press statements isn't going to cut it in an era where customers are increasingly used to interacting with brands online.
When BrandIndex just days after the crisis occurred found that Americans' perceptions of the pizza outlet's quality fell from +5 positive to -2.8 positive.
With Facebook Fan Pages and YouTube videos two of the hottest digital marketing tools out there right now, NestlÃ©'s handling of their own social media fire storm shows just how essential it is for brands to have adequate social media skills and forward planning to manage a crisis online.
For NestlÃ©, it all started when Greenpeace UK launched a social media campaign on YouTube against them for purchasing palm oil from companies linked to the destruction of the rain forests.
Greenpeace's powerful spoof Kit-Kat commercial draws attention to NestlÃ©'s role in the plight of orang-utans and deforestation and quickly went viral on YouTube.
NestlÃ© responded by lamely trying to kill the campaign on the grounds that Greenpeace's video infringed the Kit-Kat logo copyright.
NestlÃ©'s crisis management strategy was to respond with a threat:
“To repeat: we welcome your comments, but please don't post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic–they will be deleted.”
Such crass handling of the situation made NestlÃ© look like they didn't like people criticising them online and were using the copyright issue as an excuse to censure and delete anti-NestlÃ© comments.
NestlÃ©'s initial crisis management showed the team weren't adept at communicating online and that they didn't understand the way online communities often respond when brands try to shut them down. In short, they NestlÃ©'s response failed miserably and just enraged the community even more. In fact, they are still posting there today!
So how do you prepare for crisis management?
1. Set-up a Crisis Management Team â€“ if you haven't done so already.
2. Ensure the team has sufficient training and hands-on experience communicating with customers on social media channels
3. Set up response channels â€“ if you haven't done so already â€“ such as a blog, YouTube account, Twitter account, etc
4. Star listening: Set up alerts and RSS feeds. Subscribe to Radian6 or Google Alerts.
5. Make it someoneâ€™s job to listen everyday. You never know when a crisis will hit.
6. Imagine the worst PR scenarios possible to hit your business. Prepare for them by making sure you understand and can use the social channels like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc, you've set up.
7. Optimize a website or blog you intend to use for crisis management with keywords that can be used by the opposition.
8. Nurture meaningful connections with major players on the Net who have strong followings on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc, so that they may help you in times of crisis.
9. Run regular fire drills â€“ at least once a quarter because the Net and tools change so quickly. You need to know you're team is prepared.
10. Keep listening
11. Be ready to respond immediately â€“ or at least within 24 hours.