Using Social Media to Ward Off a PR Crisis

•February 16, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Last week, I wrote about the importance of including social media in crisis communications planning and I wanted to touch on it again, as I found another interesting piece on the subject. I follow Mashables on Twitter and this week, they tweeted on “What Brands Can Learn From Taco Bell’s Social Media Lawsuit Defense, which linked to Taco Bell Uses Social Media to Ward Off PR Crisis.

A lawsuit was filed recently alleging Taco Bell misleads consumers with advertisements claiming its products contain “ground beef,” when the majority of its meat filling is made up of non-meat substances.  Taco Bell has decided fighting back by means of its Facebook Page, Twitter account and YouTube channel, and I’ve noticed this type of public relations and handling occurs more and more in times of crisis. Before the days of social media, brands would often choose to avoid the limelight as long as possible or offer few comments and an apology in hopes that the news would expire quickly.

The new approach in treating difficult situations is exactly what consumers want – transparency.  Although the general population knows the company in question likely has an elaborate PR team who writes their key messages and trains the spokespeople, the public does appreciate when a brand owns up to its mistake and gives the public an opportunity to create their own opinion (and not that of the media).

In some instances, some would argue that, although the idea of using social media to confront issues head is frightening, taking responsibility for mistakes could actually help a brand.  By being transparent, brands are showing respect for their consumers, and that, is invaluable.

Crisis Communications Planning and Social Media

•February 9, 2011 • Leave a Comment

In the last few weeks, I have been following the news with the intention of learning if and how businesses and organizations are dealing with social media in times of crisis.  I began digging for crisis communication plans and realized that most business or organizations go ahead with a social media plan without giving crisis communications much thought.

According to a survey from German consultancy Gartner Communications, while nearly 85% of companies worldwide have general crisis plans in place, only 20.7% have social media crisis plans set. The majority of us seem to be embracing the importance of social media marketing, without adequately preparing for the risks.

When I find tips, tricks and best practices that really speak to me, I take note of them apply them to my organization’s social media plan.  I am trusting these Best Practices for Crisis Communications over Social Media to further develop our plan and help our senior management team better understand the importance of being transparent in times of crisis.

The two recommendations that stuck with me are:
– “Leave comments on – When you shut off comments it says a lot about the brand. Have a clearly stated blogging policy noting that you’ll take criticism, but not profanity.
Monitor real-time content to answer questions, not sentiment – So much of monitoring tools is to determine sentiment. If someone doesn’t like you, don’t leave it at that. Why are they angry and how can you fix it? Often the reason there’s negative sentiment is because they haven’t had their questions answered. Instead of drawing a chart that says “40 percent of users don’t like us” why not just answer the issue they’re having? Just saying, “We feel your pain” doesn’t solve a problem. Instead ask, “How can we solve your pain?”

Do you have a crisis communications component in your social media plan?  I most certainly did not fall into the 20.7% that does…

Engaging Conversations

•February 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

A few months ago, my colleague and I agreed that we needed to create a social media plan.  Our goal was to position the organization as the champion of aging Canadians – which coincides with our vision.  We got together and created a one-year plan, broken down by month, in which we came up with multiple themes and ideas related to health and aging.  We started by scanning the Ontario Health Association’s Health Promotion Calendar and pulling awareness days.  We then turned to our organization’s internal campaign and events calendar, and filled in the blanks, while adding other “special” days such as Christmas, New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, etc. and soon had something to work with.  We divided the year amongst ourselves and agreed to claim responsibility of social media as per our established schedule.  Our objective was simple: be consistent. We’ve managed this quite well so far, and I’ve been adapting our approach to make us sound more “human” and less like a sales pitch.

What we find challenging is when is comes to engaging our readers.  We several hundreds of Fans and Friends and have noticed our blog gets many hits, but we seldom obtain feedback.  I’d say between one and five users, most of who are our colleagues, comment or like our posts.

For Twitter, Engaging Social Media published the ‘Rules of Engagement’ for marketing:

#1 – Respect your audience
#2 – Add value
#3 – Tell a story
#4 – Give them somewhere to go
#5 – Always have an agenda
#6 – Build your brand (custom twitter background)

Social Media Examiner published a great, easy-to-follow article titled How to Better Engage Facebook Fan Page ‘Fans’, in which they suggest to do the following:

  • For status updates, try ending with a question.
  • Add your own comments as needed to get the ball rolling.
  • Come back and reply often to your fans’ comments – Facebook currently doesn’t have threaded commenting, so I suggest addressing specific fans in your comments as @name.
  • Do your best to respond to fan questions as promptly as possible. If you find you can’t keep up with the volume of questions, offer a free teleseminar or webinar in which you answer your fans’ top questions.

I can see how following these simple rules will make a difference in the amount of responses we get, and I can easily apply them not only to my professional life, but to my personal life as well. I have to keep reminding myself that a my posts are conversation starters and should be like an in-person conversation – no one likes to sit and listen to someone talk about themselves for hours without having an opportunity to say a word.  Sounds simple enough…stay tuned for updates!

Juggling Social Media

•January 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Welcome to my first blog!

Lately, I’ve found myself often thinking of social media and the role it plays in my life.

I’ve been an avid Facebook user for about five years, yet it feels like it’s always been a part of my life.  In my personal life, I use social media (Facebook) to connect with friends, family and colleagues, and I use it for research, fashion and entertainment.  In my professional life, I use it to communicate with our employees, the community, our clients, the media, our peers, our donors, and anyone touched by our organization.  We have accounts on Facebook (both Friend and Fan pages), Twitter, YouTube, and most recently, we’ve created a corporate blog.

In order to stay current and better position myself as a social media expert, I thought it wise to enroll in a social media program.  Coincidentally, I as I turned on the radio on Friday of last week, I heard the commercial announcing that Algonquin College offered an online course in Social media – I registered the same night.


Week One of the program wasn’t half way through and already I was revamping the organization’s strategies, accounts, and our approach; I was inspired.  I read countless articles and blogs and watched several videos on the impact social media can have on business and reputation, and how important it is to respond to comments and engage readers.

Here are a few interesting pieces I thought I would share with you.

Mashable – 5 Key Tips for a Successful Social Media Content Strategy
Chris Brogan – Social Media in the Workplace

Anick