There is a school of thought that says it’s possible to write a list of five things you need to know about something. I don’t necessarily believe that, nor do I for a second believe that this post proclaims that these are the five things, above all other possible things, you could do to manage an issue in a social media environment. But we all like link bait.
Instead I see it as more of a primer for those new to public relations consulting, particularly those new to the practice of issues management.
Much is made of “digital crisis management” from the perspective of “digital experts”, otherwise known as “gurus” or “ninjas”. See the first post on this blog for my view on experts, and remember that social media ninjadom doesn’t make your social media kung fu stronger, because kung fu is Chinese, and ninjas were Japanese.
There are also disputes about their continued existence…also, ninjas were basically assassins, so do you want to trust their judgment on anything relating to “social”? Yeah.
Having worked for several years in crisis management before discovering the internetz, I’d like to think this brings a bit of inside-the-room experience to the table.
Thing number 1: Listen first. Everyone does actually say this, so it must be true. What I’d highlight is the importance of listening for the sake of learning some shit about the world. Constantly monitor online conversations to develop an understanding of what’s a criticism (feedback) vs. a complaint (personal experience). They don’t have to be relevant to your organisation or your client – it’s better if you just have a personal interest. But learn to discriminate between wheat and chaff.
Thing number 2: Understand the real problems offline. Recognise that nothing exists only on the internet*. If people are complaining to you or about you (or your client), it’s because something’s bothering them in the real world. Identify the source of their frustration before you waste time and resources dealing with the symptoms. Think about it this way – if your customer starts the #[organisationhasbadcustomerservice] hashtag…that’s not a social media crisis. That’s an indication your customer service is…not good.
Thing number 3: Participate one step at a time. Try to limit your participation in others’ conversations to just one engagement – if it’s a positive “assist” give it your all, if it’s complaint resolution try to resolve it on the first go, or re-direct it to someone with more knowledge/power/money as quickly as possible. People turn to the web in frustration. Ease the frustration and it’s like opening a pressure valve for them.
Thing number 4: Customer Service = Consumer Satisfaction. You can’t keep the whole internet happy all of the time. If someone has a legitimate product complaint, get them connected to the customer service team as quickly as possible – leave complaint resolution to the real experts. Just make sure that the service people know that the person is already upset, and has probably already had a bad experience from (someone else) in that area (yes, I’m generalising, but only because it happens a lot – also, a “bad” customer service experience may just be the consumer’s perception and may not even show up when you go back through the recorded calls…yep, that’s the “training purposes” they’re recorded for. So be nice).
Thing number 5: Keep (or get) Corporate Communications in the loop. In everything you do you’re the public face of either the organisation, or your client’s, but remember that it’s the organisation’s Corporate Communications function is there to help manage the corporate brand image. If you find yourself dealing with a brand attack, or stumble across one in your usual
cyber stalking online listening, escalate to Corp Comms immediately. This would be the first port of call in some instances.
*The internet is a network of networks, hence the name. Just saying.