Before delving into how a PR agent will manage a crisis when it strikes, one must understand how PR handles social media content that prevents a crisis from even occurring.
PR Agencies Avert Crises
A social media crisis is often an outcome of contentious and tactless messages. The prudent action to take is to commit to an ongoing effort of ensuring that content shared on social media never draws flak.
Such a tricky task is best left to PR agents who have the experience in knowing how to handle content with care. For example, PR agencies will always choose to map out editorial directions and astutely mold the content until its suitability is affirmed, instead of jumping straight into publishing it online without any discernment. This prevents undesirable and unnecessary backlashes and brand recovery before it’s too late.
PR Agencies Turn Crises Around
Not all content, however, is managed by PR professionals, and when mishandled, a crisis will inevitably strike. The situation can then either turn around for the better, or it could exacerbate. PR agencies are trained for the former, and there are several reasons why they are most capable of being successful at it.
Social media content goes viral fast and furiously, especially when it is negative news. As such, there must be a sense of urgency in rectifying the situation for any lapse in response time will inevitably lead to an online wildfire and a further damage to the brand. A PR practitioner understands such adverse implications and is equipped with the skill to respond to a crisis in a timely manner.
While a perception of indifference may be prevented by responding urgently, a full salvation of the situation depends highly on the delicate task of juggling ethics and sincerity in the content used to respond, while being able to also nail the crux of the issue. This can be elucidated with a closer look at 2 case studies – where AIA’s social media agency, Dstnct, got caught in a sticky situation with local photographer Zexun Tan when asking for an image to be used in an AIA campaign, and Zouk Singapore’s management facing an online outrage for mishandling the incident of a premature end of a guest DJ’s set.
In both cases, there were swift responses in trying to address the issue, but instead of averting a crisis, it was quite the opposite. The problem did not lie in the tone of voice and style of Dstnct and Zouk Singapore’s polite replies, but the content of it. Even though an apology was issued by Dstnct, Mr Tan did point out that there were still logical flaws in their argument, and they did not address the crux of his point, which was that photographs for a campaign should never be asked for in exchange for simply exposure, unless it was willingly given by the photographer without having to be asked. Dstnct’s reply of apologizing but still asking for other photos showed a lack of understanding and thus frustrated Mr. Tan. Worst of all, it showed a lack of sincerity from the social media agency in bothering to understand Mr. Tan’s point of view and instead focusing on their job of attaining photographs.
As for Zouk’s case, even though the management’s reply seemed professional and honest, it was, in fact, dismissive and disingenuous, as what the other comments suggested.
The comments that lambasted the reply as a distortion of truth and merely a “misunderstanding” highlights how Zouk was mainly concerned with protecting itself by lying, and thus ignoring proper ethics of owning up to mistakes nor showing sincerity in further investigating the issue of what could have really happened.
In both cases, there was a lack of professionalism in the replies, which thus faced a lot of criticisms.
No company is too big to fail, and PR professionals understand that people will be more willing to trust a company that is honest and dares to own to mistakes with a genuine heart to suggest and execute follows up actions. Importantly, a PR professional will be able to craft content that addresses the crux of the issue to tackle the problem effectively.
PR ultimately focuses on getting accurate and effective messages across that will build and maintain positive relationships. This is unlike the main concern of marketing or social media agencies, which also do not have expert knowledge and skills in communication.