Brands are increasingly pushing the envelope and putting their reputations on the line with social media messaging that is turning into full-blown company PR crises. Just two weeks ago, DiGiorno Pizza demonstrated the danger in piggybacking on unrelated but topical hashtags to self-promote via social media. DiGiorno’s use of the #WhyIStayed hashtag backfired because that hashtag is actually dedicated to domestic abuse victims sharing their stories. The timing of this hashtag folly could not have been worse, as it was posted just two days after the Ray Rice story broke, and just three weeks before the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In response to the immediate social media backlash, DiGiorno Pizza took down the tweet and issued an apology claiming not to have researched the hashtag’s true meaning before posting it. Social media crises do happen, and whether they are avoidable or not, the success or failure of a crisis response depends on the preparation done before the company PR crisis actually occurs. DiGiorno put out the fire immediately by hitting the issue head on. If it hesitated at all in responding, the damage could have been much worse. Tip #1: Have a Plan A social media crisis management plan is an important part of your overall PR strategy. The success of your crisis response can come down to whether or not you have a protocol in place with a trained team to implement it efficiently. During a social media crisis, the timing of your response is critical. In the heat of it, you can’t cool the issue with your internal processes also spinning out of control. Here are some things to include in your social media crisis plan: 1. An outlined process for assessment, escalation and approval. 2. A staff of designated community managers and brand ambassadors. 3. An outline of your brand’s sensitive issues. 4. A plan for when escalation is appropriate and to whom alerts should go. 5. A process for the final authority for approval. 6. A defined monitoring/response process. Tip #2: Think Big Picture Mitigating a crisis begins way before the issue has a chance to even bubble up. Use social media monitoring to define your industry’s online stakeholder groups who are interested in the issues that impact your business. What are they talking about? What should you avoid in your messaging to refrain from igniting a sore topic? Where do influencers stand on these issues? This insight will influence your crisis strategy and messaging. Keep your eye out for evergreen issues that may be brewing into crisis points. Try to anticipate and plan more than react. Part of this strategy can include communicating in online groups of stakeholders. Connect and be a part of the conversation early, before it goes viral. A social media crisis can escalate at light speed. Make sure your social media team is always prepared. An experienced PR firm can help you develop your crisis management plans, and assist your team in developing a full crisis management plan and PR strategy. Don’t get stuck in the rain with your own Social Media Crisis. Our PR experts are always available to answer questions and advise. Call us today (866)252-1750.