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What is a PR disaster in social media?

This step describes how PR disasters manifest themselves on social media, and how we can scale up in these unpredictable circumstances.

What is a PR disaster in social media?

A disaster on social media can manifest itself in two ways – a misstep by a brand’s social media profile that creates negative PR across all channels, or a wider brand issue that generates negative media, triggering dissent on social.

Either way, from a social media perspective, the effect will be the same; negative messages and mentions on a much larger scale than is normally dealt with. This will undoubtedly put stress on your processes and people.

It is important you make sure the organisation is as prepared as possible to face this eventuality.

How do we scale up in these unpredictable circumstances?

Predictably, the answer is preparation, preparation, preparation. Thinking of response only after a situation happens is not an effective strategy. By the time it happens, it will be too late to find a solution. Good recoveries are planned, agreed and documented to be ready for when a response is needed.

Building a loyal, forgiving audience

The best form of preparation is building a loyal, forgiving, audience through your day-to-day content publishing. How you publish in ‘peacetime’ is teeing up how you will publish when things go wrong.

Having an authentic, trust-based relationship with your audience in which you truthfully reflect who you are as a company, and what your values are, will make talking about negative events easier, if and when they happen.

In fact, taking your everyday tone and trust in a disaster recovery situation can develop and deepen the relationship with your social media followers.

American Red Cross

Take this example from the American Red Cross, a humanitarian charity. An employee had meant to tweet from their personal account and instead did so from the brand account.

An example of a PR disaster on the Red Cross’s Twitter page.

To download a detailed description of this visual, scroll to the “Downloads” section at the bottom of this step.

A totally out of character tweet from the organisation instantly caused a stir in social media, with many taking the opportunity to mock the brand using the #gettingslizzerd hashtag.

Instead of panicking and releasing official statements, the American Red Cross handled the situation adeptly.

Their follow-up was a masterful combination of demonstrating a clear resolution whilst injecting lightness and humour. Ultimately, followers were left feeling that this was only a human slip, normal service was resumed and the brand took the occasion to highlight the funny side of the situation.

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Running a Social Media Campaign: Customers, Influencer Engagement, Analytics

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