Why rehearse a social media crisis?
Kate Hartley, MD, Carrot Communications
Tamara Littleton, CEO of eModeration, and I head up a social media agency and PR
company respectively. The shift that social media has brought in how a crisis breaks
impelled us to combine our companies’ experience and expertise in reputation
management, social media and PR, to create a social media simulator.
We believe an effective real-time simulated experience of a social media crisis gives
you and your team the best chance of riding out a social media storm successfully;
perhaps even brilliantly.
A real crisis is one of the most damaging things to brand reputation. And social media
really has completely changed how an issue breaks, and how we can manage it.
When a crisis hits, there are six things that come into play that define how a team
feels and responds to a pressure situation. We call these the ‘hot seat factors ‘of a
In a crisis you have to think quickly, and act quickly. Best practice says we
have 15 minutes to respond on Twitter, and an hour on Facebook. This
isn’t enough time to work out a strategy
1. Speed of
Hiding behind a corporate press statement could destroy everything
you’ve invested in social media. Individuals tweet, and post – not
Social media means we deal directly with the public through social media
channels. And the public won’t always have an objective view; personal
agendas and emotion come into play.
When you hand over your message to the public you can’t control what
happens to it. It’ll develop and change as it’s passed around in
4. Lack of control
Everything we do is being watched, scrutinised and analysed. We’re
learning from our industry peers, which means they’re learning from us –
good and bad.
5. This is a young
There’s a real fear that whatever you do in a crisis could come back to
bite you. So if you take on the benefits, you have to take on the risks.
6. The boomerang
When a crisis breaks, it’s
likely to be over news
sites, Twitter, Facebook,
Instagram, blogs, forums,
TV and YouTube. The first
reporters to any crisis
scene are citizens armed
with smartphones and a
The first videos to emerge of the devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma, or the
Tsunami in Japan, were taken on mobile phones. The news of the Hudson river air
landing was broken to the world by a cameraphone picture on Twitter. These are
the images that became the defining pictures of the disasters. Every citizen with a
phone and a Twitter account is a reporter.
Marketers mostly spread our message through
a third party conduit: the media, or
advertising, or search. Social media has
changed all that. You can tell when a brand is
comfortable on social media, talking direct to
its followers. This is a great example of a very
human error – and response – from an Oregon
On the flip side, you can also tell when someone isn’t
very used to responding publicly, or has auto tweets set
up. American Airlines responded to every Tweet about
it saying ‘thank you for your support’, even when this
was the message.
Taking an issue off your feed
to someone who can help is,
in principle, a Good Idea.
But choose your audience.
Next invited a customer to
delete a Tweet where she
mentioned them (alongside
some fairly explicit
the request to ‘censor’ her
post didn’t go down well.
BIC’s launch of Pens ‘For Her’. How did we
women manage to write before we had pens
in girl colours?
Was asking Ellen to review Pens For Her a good idea?
Watch the video and decide.
This is a great example of the
unpredictability of the public
response, from UK cinema chain
These case studies don’t go away. Dave
Carroll, of United Breaks Guitars Fame, is still
setting our social media and customer service
strategies, four years after United broke his
This is the Nixon Kennedy moment in social media. The time when our perception of
businesses through social media, and our perception of the business of social media
is shifting. The time when communicators and social media managers are stepping
We may not be able to manage how an issue breaks. But we can control how we
respond. And now, we can practice getting that response right, using simulation
Contact Kate Hartley for information on our social media
crisis simulations for brands and agencies, run in partnership
Tel: +44 207 178 5052