One of the most amazing benefits of leveraging social media is the ability to gain momentum behind a concept or brand. The corresponding negative is damaging publicity and untrue information can also spread quickly and gain traction.

Most professionals are wholly unaware of how to handle a social media crisis for their personal brand or even small business, yet in the age of social media—when even things from the past can even come back to haunt—all professionals should have a basic understanding of how to handle a social media brand crisis.

Three tips for protecting your brand during a crisis

  • Act quickly. Do not allow even a day to go by without directly addressing the situation. Use reputation management tools like Mention and Google Alerts to monitor discussions of your name or brand online. Note: When setting a Google Alert, select “all results” versus the default “Only the best results” or you could miss something important. Additionally, if the crisis is unfolding via social media, respond via social media, the same day. While there are many examples of how delayed (in the social media world, that means 24 hours) response has caused damage, I can think of no better recent example than that of Paula Deen. Paula’s decision to wait over 24 hours to release her YouTube video following the National Enquirer’s release of her deposition allowed the tongue-in-cheek hashtag #paulasbestdishes to gain momentum, causing brand partners (who later decided to sever ties with the southern cooking phenom) to take the heat.
  • Be genuine and upfront. Oftentimes, dealing with the problem directly and sincerely will diffuse a situation. Sincerely is the key. The days of canned responses and obviously heavily prepared PR statements are gone, at least via social media. Know the main talking points, but be sure to deliver your message in a clear, concise, and heartfelt manner. Point out any misinformation and ensure that your tone is never defensive. Offer solutions and, in the case with unhappy clients, provide them with contact information in order to resolve their issue with a phone call or email. Note: It doesn’t really matter if the person is receptive to your offer (though it is ideal), the important thing is that your social media contacts see that you are offering a solution.
  • Turn the crisis into an opportunity. After being put through the ringer, the last thing many professionals would consider is how to turn the negative experience into an opportunity. However, a wonderful example of a brand leveraging this tactic would be Kickstarter’s apology after allowing a project, deemed extremely offensive to women, to be funded using their site. After their sincere apology, they announced that the company would donate $25,000 to an anti-sexual violence organization. Kickstarter turned their own critics into brand advocates with that move and gained hundreds of shares via social media highlighting the “classy” way the company handled the situation.

Remember: Responding to a social media brand crisis requires speed, sincerity, and forward thinking. Creating a plan now just may make the difference between brand destruction and growth later.


This post first appeared on Personal Branding Blog.