How to survive a #socialmedia #crisis like a pro

This week UK high street staple Greggs the bakers were thrown into chaos when it transpired that the Google knowledge graph had been displaying a doctored logo with a less then family-friendly message…

Greggs the Bakery Google search and knowledge graph fake logo

But kudos to Greggs’ social media team – they handled the unfortunate situation themselves with just a few simple tweets to Google directly, which got the situation fixed a load faster than if they had waited for head office to try and resolve the issue through a formal complaints process.

The team’s use of photos of donuts and jokes about their synonymous sausage rolls provided a perfect ‘good PR’ opportunity, and made more than one of us crave a doughy treat this week…

This is just one great example of social media teams coming into their own which we have seen in the media recently.

Pre-kosher food scandal, Sainsbury’s had the fantastic #fishwar pun off between a social media manager and a customer; though suspected to be a PR stunt, this chat went viral and proved that corporate brands can have a sense of humour online.

And it’s not just good cases of social media management that have been in the press recently either, the management team of the House of Wolf pub in London experienced the wrath of a former employee, when he effectively took the website, Facebook and Twitter accounts hostage when he wasn’t paid. The situation was badly handled in many ways, but it comes down to minimising the impact of online trolling, and this was not done nearly quickly enough.

Here are some lessons to learn from these high profile cases, whether good or bad you must manage your PR.

Four things to remember in a social media crisis

1. When disaster strikes, act fast

As you can see from House of Wolf’s incident, dealing with the problem quickly should be the top priority. Nipping ‘troll’ comments in the bud, removing offensive content, or quashing vicious rumours in a timely fashion is key.

But don’t forget that this issues need to be addressed directly, not simply deleted and forgotten about. This is something that can be seen from every report of embarrassing celebrity tweets, ever: “@GenericCeleb has since removed the tweet, but not before a screen shot was taken”. The phrase ‘conspicuous by its absence’ rings true here, as you don’t want to be seen as whitewashing over problems (unless it’s liable for libel or seriously offensive). Better to leave a bad comment online if it shows your direct and helpful response below.

2. Don’t forget your brand has a personality

If your brand is part of quite a large company then the chances are that you have more than one person managing your social accounts. So at the start of your social media journey you need to have decided whether your team is going to be speaking under one voice (the brand’s), or from their own, as spokespeople for your company.

This decision may ultimately come down to whether you’re using social media as a secondary customer service centre. [In fact nowadays twitter can almost be seen as the go-to service for quick answers, and big brands are responding to this trend with dedicated @CustomerServices handles such as @ASOS_HeretoHelp or @Reachout_McD.]

Whichever tone of voice you chose, remember to apply it when dealing with potential PR challenges. If your team normally speaks from a personal level don’t suddenly switch to a corporate robot response in the name of professionalism. Allow your teams the freedom to inject some humour, irony and maybe even an emoticon or two – go wild!

3. ‘An image speaks a 1000 words’.

That phrase is beyond cheesy, but so apt for the social age. If you’re not as clever with words as the quick witted pun-tastic David at Sainsbury’s, then follow Greggs’ lead with using images instead.

Pics are easy to reshare, and don’t lose their meaning as text can amongst messy quote marks and ‘RT’s, and as such are more likely to trend. Use an image that is funny or touching, and is easy to ‘get’.

4. Turn the online, offline.

Ok, I’m gonna reel out another cheese bomb: ‘Actions speak louder than words’ – saying sorry on Facebook or on a website is one thing, but doing it in real life is another. There’s a reason why proper events still dole out paper invitations (even better still, hand written ones!), because they are tactile, from a REAL person, and have actually required some degree of effort to create.

So I’m sure that Google were as surprised as anyone when Greggs actually did send them in a palette of scrummy donuts to their office – much more sweet than a tweet, don’t you think?


Written by

Holly is part of TIW's growing SEO team. A web content creator, she is also a magazine designer and event photographer. Not averse to a five star meal or premium beauty product, Holly is an avid blogger and social media enthusiast, she will be contributing to the TIW blog and looking after all things social. Contact:

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