Mandy Anderson, VP of Sales, Sway Group
In a perfect world, your brand will never have to endure a PR calamity. You’ll never have a single recall, product shortage, data breach, service outage, miscommunication or upset customer.
Of course, the less delightful reality is that most businesses will eventually be faced with some sort of PR stumbling block, whether it’s an unflattering social media review or a scandal that threatens your company’s performance.
Here’s how the Institute for PR defines a PR crisis:
A crisis is defined here as a significant threat to operations that can have negative consequences if not handled properly. In crisis management, the threat is the potential damage a crisis can inflict on an organization, its stakeholders, and an industry. A crisis can create three related threats: (1) public safety, (2) financial loss, and (3) reputation loss.
When it’s all hands on deck to mitigate the damage, the good news is that you have a surprisingly powerful set of assets to help boost your image and convey your sincerity in making things right: influencers and a strong influencer marketing strategy.
During tough times, influencer marketing can be an incredibly valuable tool to help manage developing PR situations and bolster the positive messaging you want out in the world.
4 Key Points to Consider When Activating Influencers During a PR Crisis
- Be Transparent
It’s imperative to move quickly when it comes to addressing the issue and/or apologizing. Companies who delay acknowledging the problem will only make things worse, especially in today’s environment of lightning-fast social media.
Don’t shy away from the facts of what happened or how your brand has been received. In the wake of a PR crisis, consumers want immediate, sincere information, and they definitely don’t want any corporate jargon.
Communicate with influencers to make sure they’re aware of how you’re working to resolve the situation, and encourage them to use their own authentic voice when addressing any crisis-related messaging.
- Make Sure Influencers Know the Plan
When a crisis is underway, your influencer campaign should include a comprehensive response plan. If questions or negative comments come up on influencer posts, they should never go ignored or unanswered. Know who’s going to be responsible for these communications, and what the message should be.
Influencers should be prepped with the basics for questions their audiences may ask, but the real work should be done by the brand. This isn’t a burden, it’s actually an amazing opportunity, not only to publicly demonstrate your openness and honesty, but to directly connect with consumers in a meaningful way.
For negative or angry posts, or complicated questions, take the conversation offline. Ask for an email dialogue or a phone call, but be sure to actually follow up. Remember, brands must be able to deliver on the promise and expectations they ask influencers to create in the first place.
- When in Doubt, Wait it Out
If your brand was just under fire for a serious faux pas and news articles are still circulating at a fast and furious pace, it might be prudent to take a beat before launching your next influencer campaign. Depending on the severity of the crisis, the better strategy could involve planning out a future campaign based on what people are most concerned about.
You’ll know the biggest concerns, because people will be talking about them! This is when to really pay attention to social media; people won’t be shy in telling you what they expect from your response.
Use this information to craft your upcoming influencer activities. While it’s okay to wait on running a new campaign, don’t hesitate to acknowledge the situation. Remember step one: transparency is key.
- Influence Your Search Engine Results
Even long after the dust has settled, search engine results resurface past transgressions. You can help clear up any lingering bad press with influencer marketing. Influencer blog posts, videos, and social media campaigns help you populate search engine results with relevant, current and positive brand content.
A great influencer campaign can shift opinions about your brand, drive conversations, and boost sales — and it’s exactly the kind of SEO you’re looking for. Be sure to have influencers use the same product name across the board, circulate their content as much as possible and plan to regularly engage wherever your brand is mentioned.
Eventually, Google will reflect your hard work with positive associations that far outweigh yesterday’s misstep.
The Final Word
A PR crisis will likely be a surprise, but how you choose to respond shouldn’t be. After all, as Warren Buffet famously said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” By empowering influencers to get real about your brand misstep, you can minimize the negative spin and begin engaging in the kinds of active conversations that help repair reputations and even generate positive buzz.
About the Author: Mandy joined Sway Group in November of 2018, overseeing all of Sales operations and personnel. She was previously Vice President of Sales for NBC Universal’s owned Connecticut television station after spending 6 years in management at NBC Bay Area in San Francisco. Mandy has 20 years of Sales experience in the Broadcast Television industry, handling direct and agency business across the country. She lives in Simsbury, Connecticut with her husband and teenage son.