Quest PR team
Clare Burnett

Member Article

7 top tips when dealing with a PR crisis online

Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook and 24 hour online news channels have had a dramatic effect on corporate reputations - and businesses ignore digital media at their peril.

Online media enables members of the public to become “citizen journalists” or to express anger and concern in an unprecedented way.

A crisis or a reputational management issue for a brand can spread like wildfire online within hours as disgruntled customers take to a plethora of digital channels to express their anger – often accompanying their words with a photo or film clip taken on their smart phones.

Anyone doubting the power and speed of social media to break and spread bad news has only to look at an incident involving the sale of a “mental health patient” fancy dress costume by supermarket chain Asda.

The sale of the offending Halloween outfit on the Asda Direct site provoked outrage on Twitter with celebrity tweeters including former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell and ex footballer Stan Collymore – both of whom have suffered from depression - expressing their disgust.

Mental health campaigners, including charity Rethink Mental Illness, demanded on Twitter that Asda “please explain” why it was listing the product and asked for it be withdrawn.

Because Asda monitors its social media platforms it was able to respond within hours – taking to Twitter to issue statements. The costume was withdrawn from sale (although this took several hours); Asda apologised and promised it would make a “sizeable” donation (believed to be £25,000) to mental health charity Mind to apologise.

Yet despite Asda’s speed of response, the story still made national headlines the next day with the media using the Tweets to build their story. Many national journalists were actually involved in the Twitter conversation about the costumes so were watching the story gather speed in real time.

If the worst happens to your business what should you do? Harrogate’s Quest PR came up with seven simple steps to help handle your crisis communications:

1. Acknowledge the problem or crisis – say ’we know’ what is happening and we doing something about it

2. Respond quickly – social media is immediate and bad news can go viral in moments

3. Stick to the facts and don’t speculate

4. Be honest and transparent and don’t try to cover up or fudge the issue

5. Respond on the social media platform where the crisis broke before posting across other social media

6. Say sorry or admit you are wrong

7. Let people what you have done, or what you are doing, to address the situation

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Clare Burnett .

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