Social listening has a variety of applications to help businesses meet their business and marketing goals. It provides marketers with the ability to monitor awareness levels, the competitive landscape, consumer segments, product features and brand sentiment. Social listening also provides marketers with access to near real-time online discussions and posts to quickly address reputation or crisis management issues.
As marketers, we all have or will experience some sort of crisis or public relations issue. In today’s connected society, we now have the benefit of leveraging consumer and publisher commentary to quickly address issues before they escalate and spiral out of control. If you don’t have a process within your organization to address these types of situations, here are a few steps marketers can take to be prepared for the next unexpected, undesirable event.
First would be to assemble a core task force within your organization. Depending on your industry, most organizations will include Risk Management, Public Relations, Marketing, Security, Regional Field Directors and Operations. From there, clearly define the objective of the task force.
- Align on what constitutes and defines the level of a crisis issue
- Develop a concise work flow and internal communication plan that defines who should be involved and when
- Define, communicate and provide training for how to respond to the issue at stake
Your next step as the marketer should be to establish a process to quickly monitor online discussions to report back to the overall team. As we all have experienced, social media is an avenue that consumers have leveraged to share stories and events that can quickly explode within minutes. Through re-tweets, groups, online petitions and the media, significant masses can and have generated national or global attention, which could not only have a negative impact, but also provide positive opportunities if handled appropriately.
The third step is to audit your owned social media channels and determine the estimated total reach, so you can prioritize and estimate the potential impact on your business. Each channel allows you to respond to your customers, relay important and timely information, give you an opportunity to collect and review feedback, and should be used as a tool for taking preventive measures.
The fourth step is to categorize the levels of a crisis defined by the potential impact on your business. Listed below are a few examples:
Level 1 – No situation yet; however, it could have the potential to escalate. This include threats, local tragedies, public events or protests related to your organization or industry.
Level 2 – An incident has occurred but has not impacted the business’s reputation or operations. A few examples might include peaceful protests, internal changes that affect employees or unexpected accidents like a slip and fall.
Level 3 – The issue has impacted business operations or reputation in a negative manner. This would include incidents like a tragic event, a highly publicized protest or major threats after actual incidents.
Level 4 – The final level has impacted the business’s operations or reputation. This include product recalls, disasters or other major incidents, like deaths or assaults, directly related to your organization.
The final step is to establish the framework and guiding principles. As the marketer, you will have to monitor the situation throughout the process, listen carefully and think through the potential impact before responding. Make sure you have all the facts before responding and always assume that your responses on social media are permanent. Last, and most important, as one of the representatives of your brand, be sensitive and human.
Reputation and Crisis Management Framework
Step 1 – Monitor and assess the level of the issue or potential issue
Step 2 – Take action based on the level and inform appropriate task force members as defined by the team
Step 3 – Continue to monitor, take action and capture all conversations, links, images and contacts
Step 4 – Task force comes to an agreement that the incident can be closed. Compile the details of the incident’s details and responses for future reference
Let’s hope crises and negative incidents are far and few between; however, social listening can be an invaluable tool that can help you prepare, monitor and respond in a way that could potentially save your business.