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What do you do after a social media and PR crisis?

You weathered the crisis. You’re exhausted, but at least you lived through it. Yesterday, I wrote about how to be prepared for a PR crisis with social media, but for many companies, that advice will come too late. Unfortunately, it’s human nature for us to ignore things (such as getting prepared for a crisis) until after we are hit with the crisis. It always feels like we can put that task off in favor of more urgent matters, but eventually the crisis comes and are caught unprepared. So, if you’ve just weathered such a PR crisis, what do you do now? OK, I mean after you get some sleep.

Sleepy Thoughts

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 The first thing you should do, post-crisis, is to conduct the dreadfully named post-mortem. What went right? What went wrong? What do you wish you had already in place before the crisis, that would have made life so much easier? As painful as it is, it’s critical that you examine everything that happened while it is fresh in your mind. I once heard someone say, “Write it down while it is still true.” Too often, we think we’ll remember, but time dims our memories and changes the stories we tell ourselves. Don’t miss your chance to really identify the successes and failures of how you handled the crisis, so you can learn from them.

The next step is the hardest. You must immediately take the steps to prepare for the next crisis. Everything you wished was in place for this crisis? Put them in place now for the next one. If you wish that your Twitter presence had a bigger following, take the steps to attract followers now. If you wish you had a list of all the blogs that might talk about your industry, don’t wait to put it together. If you realized you need listening services to stay on top of what people are saying, now is the time to address that.

The last step is the most unexpected for some people. You need to accept the painful fact that the crisis is not really over. Everything said about you stays on the Internet forever and Google makes that information a click away from the right search. Some people making decisions about who to buy from will come across that bad PR years after the events have played out, so you must make sure that your story of how the crisis was resolved gets the attention of searchers. Perhaps that requires work in organic search, but you might even pay for paid search ads that show your side of the story. Just because the media has moved on doesn’t mean the story can’t continue to do damage.

Remember the sage advice to never let a crisis pass without taking advantage. This is the moment when your colleagues are most ready to do what it takes and when your execs are most likely to pony up the money. You just had a near-death experience and you don’t want to repeat it. Take these steps now to be ready for the next crisis–you never know when it is coming.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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