At the National Institute for Social Media, response plans are the priority. A response plan is the high-level look, or the umbrella overview, that crisis management falls under. Your response plan details how you respond to positive, negative feedback, and any neutral feedback that comes your way.
Take a compliment and make the most out of it:
Positive feedback feels like you’re off the hook. If feedback is all positive, you feel like you don’t have to do anything. But that’s your opportunity to nurture and strengthen those who are already your supporters. They then become your brand champions.
Avoid the neutral zone traps – react and respond accordingly:
Questions or posts that aren’t really positive or negative land in neutral space, and that’s really not crisis communication, responding to those is just good customer service.
When crisis strikes:
If you have a crisis, most people associate it with an isolated event, and sometimes you can plan for it, sometimes you can’t. A few years ago, when Nordstrom’s discontinued Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, they anticipated a negative backlash by those who would accuse them of being politically motivated. They stated sales was the reason, and 100 percent came out neutral, but they could anticipate that particular feedback.
Whereas, in the viral video of a passenger being physically dragged off an airplane, the airline couldn’t have anticipated that event. However, with an online response plan, they would have been prepared to respond to the unexpected event.
A quick response is important but an informed response is more important than anything else. If it fits the situation, you may buy yourself time to do a little research by commenting that you’ve passed their question on and will respond soon.
If you don’t have a strategic plan to fall back on, and you respond quickly but poorly, you run the risk of doing more harm than good. With an online response plan, people understand how to assess a given situation.
- Respond: To show transparency, we want everyone to see we are responding to customer; we have a planned response where we acknowledge the customer.
- Take offline: Give them an offline option for sharing additional information.
- Resolve: This allows the customer to have their issue resolved and be heard but discourages them from sharing ugly details on that highly visible platform.
The plan is for a social media manager to have a path when they don’t know what to do. The viral airplane video is one example because by the time their social media people saw it, it was already going viral. They had every indication they should be panicking. Did they have a person to talk to help them make the decision about how it needs to be addressed? For those crises we can’t anticipate, there needs to be a clear path to a leader who can help with this difficult situation.
One of my favorite things to tell people is that you don’t have to be victimized online just because you’re a professional organization. You can set up community guidelines. Some businesses think, what if someone starts using racial slurs or inappropriate comments? You can post community guidelines that state these are our expectations of how our customers can participate respectfully, and we reserve the right to delete your content. You can set the expectation that you want people to engage respectfully.
You have to get to the heart of what people are really asking or wanting. In the case of Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, nobody was upset because Nordstrom’s wasn’t carrying the clothing line; what they were really upset about was that a large organization could be taking a political stance against the at-that-time republican candidate.
Are you looking to know more about how corporations and institutions need to be prepared and how they need to react when bad news goes viral? That’s where we can help.
Amy Jauman, Ed.D., is social media expert, consultant, writer, and professor at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. Dr. Jauman authored a (National Institute for Social Media) NISM textbook for social media strategists and is available to speak to speak with media — simply click on her icon to arrange an interview.
Amy Jauman, Ed.D.
Associate Professor, Master of Business Administration
Expertise: Coaching and Adult Education