Social Media During a Crisis

id-10044624Recently we received a call from a pair of panicked business owners. Someone had posted a video on Facebook alleging that the business’ food came out bursting with bugs. It went viral instantly.

The owners aren’t alone in their fear of social media. Traditional media was daunting enough, but social media feels like a whole new beast to a lot of people.

There’s good news: The underlying basics of how to respond are the same for traditional media and social media.

Let’s look at the four steps to handling traditional and social media during a crisis.

Figure out the facts. This is where you’ll always start. Who’s alleging what? What’s their motivation? Is there surveillance or proof that discredits them?

Should you wait until the investigation is done? Absolutely not. That would take too long. You have to act quickly (especially with social media).

“What do we need to do in the meantime?” You need to pull together your crisis team and set out to reassure your customers.

Identify influencers. Who do you need to reach? Where does your target audience get their information? For traditional media, this includes which publications you want to target. For tight-knit communities, you may care specially about the local paper or trade publication. Often the best solution is to go after the big fish. In Los Angeles, the LA Times sets the tone, smaller publications will follow suit and run similar stories.

Craft your message. Rely on the three R’s: Reassure. Reassure. Reassure. By letting them know you take this seriously. By reaffirming your company’s core values. By letting them know what you’re doing to fix it. (This can be done before you identify influencers. If that’s the case, you’ll have to adjust your message accordingly. But the essence of your message will remain the same.)

Send it out. The majority of the strategizing and intensity of the situation is over. This doesn’t mean you should lose momentum and walk away. In order to be effective, you need to monitor how your message was received and respond accordingly. (For more on timing, read Timing Is Everything.)

“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”

Gillott Communications is a Strategic PR firm. We’re Fixers. Crisis & Reputation Management. Litigation. Media Relations. Crisis Prep. More than half a century of expertise working with clients to resolve issues both in and outside the media’s glare — in their professional and personal lives.

You can reach Roger Gillott and Eden Gillott Bowe directly at 310-396-8696.

If you don’t already subscribe, please sign up for our blog, Insights on High-Stakes PR.

For a deeper glimpse into our world, see our book on Amazon, “A Lawyer’s Guide to Crisis PR: Protecting Your Clients In & From the Media.”

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