Dealing With Issues and Crisis Management In Social Media

6S Marketing is excited to be presenting our sold-out panel on Crisis + Issues Management In Social Media September 24 as part of Social Media Week Vancouver. Panelists include:

Katie Dreschel, Manager Communications, Digital and Social, TELUS – Connect with Katie on Twitter @Kat_drex and with TELUS via @TELUS @TELUSsupport.

Robert Willis, Online Communications Advisor, Translink – Follow @mrrobertrobot and @translink to stay connected.

Rhonda Nowak, External Communications Manager, Vancity Credit Union – Connect with Vancity on Twitter @vancity.

Wayne Racine, Digital Marketing Manager, London Drugs Corporation – Follow Wayne and LD on Twitter @wayneracine and @LondonDrugs.

More details on our panelists are available on our previous blog post.

Crisis and Issues Management in Social Media word cloud

In advance of our panel we wanted to share some thoughts on why this is such an important topic:

The most crucial component to running an online community is, of course, moderating and responding to comments, conversations and questions.  The Community Manager should have the trifecta of customer service, public relations, and marketing acumen.

For the purpose of Crisis, we are referring to exploding issues, such as widespread negative conversations on social media, mass media coverage on a topic, or major backlash to a campaign or business decision. Issues management is simmering day to day challenges, which come from disgruntled customers, employees or community members.

We’ve seen it time and time again, when a customer service issue that is miss-handled online can turn a full blown crisis, garnering viral social media posts and mass media coverage.

When working with our clients, we help prepare them before we they dive into social media. Here are some of the key areas we focus on:

Employee Policy

Start from the inside out and provide guidelines to both educate and empower your employees and helps demonstrate to them that transparency is key.  Let them know what customer comments are appropriate to respond to on your company social channels and what is hands off for legal reasons. The policy should also outline when it makes sense to identify themselves as an employee. There’s nothing worse than being accused of being deceitful by your customers.


The social customer has high expectations of brands and they want us to be accessible beyond the 9-5, Monday to Friday.  As social media channels are a constant fire hose of information 24/7, businesses small or large need to resource accordingly. For larger businesses with customer complaints or call centre, it makes sense to train someone on that team to assist with Community Management outside of regular office hours.  For smaller businesses, there are many social listening tools that can provide automated alerts when there are comments or negative sentiment.

Being Proactive

To play in the social media sandbox, you must be nimble, but it doesn’t hurt to be as prepared as possible. Being proactive will save you time and reputation in the long-run.

Are there any issues that your company is currently dealing with? Flag them ahead of time, craft an approved statement that’s been run through your public relations, management and legal, and then provide related online resources to direct people to.  Resources could include a link, digital assets (video statement, photography, diagrams), media statements, or personal messages from the leadership team.

Response Time

No one wants to hear digital crickets when they post a complaint about a brand on social channels. We understand that human resources may be tight, but it’s absolutely essential to respond to any comments, questions or complaints no later than 1 business day. Immediately or less than 4 hours is preferable. Lack of response to customers will do more harm than good. Even if you don’t know the answer yet, a simple “We’ll look into this for you” or “We value your feedback and pass it along to our management team” goes a long way.

“Buy Time”

Those of us who have worked in public relations know the importance of the “buy time” statement. It doesn’t take long for media coverage and social media conversations to pick up steam. At this point, one of the worst things to do is delete negative comments or simply go silent. Rather, a transparent response is a must.

Larger companies may take more time to create approved statements, or legal matters may prevent companies from airing out full details on an issue. But, it is always important to provide some kind of response immediately, even if it’s “We don’t have all the answers yet, but we’re working on it and will update you as soon as we can.”

One of my favourite quotes is “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war”, which was original quoted by a US Naval officer and recently applied to social by my favourite branding consultant, Bruce Philp (@brandcowboy).

Crafting a transparent response plan when things are going well, will help prepare you for when things don’t go as planned.

Find out more about dealing with crisis and issues management at our panel and share your comments below!

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