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A Crash Course in Social Media Crisis Control

In light of a recent incident involving an unfortunate white cat, one infamous burrito chain, and an apathetic employee of said chain, I thought it might be worth sharing 3 tips to manage public relations on your social media platforms.

But First, What Went Down

For anonymity’s sake, let’s call the aforementioned chain…Chipotle. Chipotle made a few-too-many mistakes, while attempting to subdue a PR “crisis.”

A manager of one of the restaurants, in route home, ran over a white cat and then updated her status (on her personal Facebook profile) to reflect the hit and run. It read:

“Soo I just ran over a white cat on my way home…oops!!! Not my fault!”

As the nature of Facebook dictates, people reacted by acquiescing, “liking,” or completely disagreeing with her. It turns out, some people really like cats, and they did not appreciate her lack of compassion. Predictably, since the woman made it public knowledge that she’s a Chipotle employee, the chain initially received a little (and I do mean “little”) tongue lashing.

The Real Issue:

Chipotle responded poorly. First, as it seems, they fabricated a story about hackers. That didn’t fly, so they denied it ever happening. As conversation grew, Chipotle claimed they were lied to about the hackers. Let’s all smh* together.

* Text lingo, short for “shaking my head”.

The Good News

This doesn’t have to happen to you. To avoid making the same mistakes, here are 3 tips to manage public relations on your social media platforms.

Tip 1: ESTABLISH SOME BOUNDARIES

You already do this in other areas of your business such as dress code, office hours, job expectations, etc. Likewise, a company social media policy should be established, clearly dictating acceptable and unacceptable behavior on company-affiliated profiles. (i.e. Employees are not to say anything asinine and/or unrelated to the company on the company’s profile.)  Furthermore, they should know the general purpose of the account.

Also, it may be a good idea to enforce that employees are not to associate your business with anything negative on their personal accounts.

As in this case, the woman named Chipotle as her employer on her bio. Although, she made these statements on her own Facebook wall, some still associated the restaurants with a negative perception, not the individual. This is why employees need to know how they are expected to behave online as it relates to your company.

In summary, employees should know what’s ok and what’s going to put them in hot water.

Tip 2: DON’T ADD FUEL TO THE FIRE

So let’s say an employee slips up and blast her unadulterated opinion on one of the social media networks and fingers start pointing at you. It’s time to launch your crisis communications plan.

Since this was in no way a “faulty brakes/hazardous stroller/ tainted aspirin” sort of crisis, a simple statement from Chipotle claiming, “The opinions of Chipotle employees do not reflect the views of the company…” would have nipped it in the bud.

This is where they goofed. Chipotle, through misjudgment, adversely provoked more negative attention to an issue relatively small few were privy too. Actually, it seemed the consensus felt, although they didn’t agree with the manager’s behavior, it wasn’t Chipotle’s fault. It didn’t become a BIG DEAL until Chipotle made it one. Often, with trivial matters such as these, they will naturally die down, if you let them.

There’s a silver lining, however. Chipotle wisely created a separate tab apart from their “wall” where consumers can respectfully vent. Sometimes that’s all we need to do to move on. In turn, the chain looks compassionate and receptive to criticism…So, one point for Chipotle.

Tip 3: THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK

(I do believe this is applicable in all aspects of your life, but I’ll keep it relevant to the subject.)

Granted, some things warrant immediate attention and are much more serious than this issue. However, before you get all panicky and start word vomiting all over the Internet, just hakuna matata and analyze the situation. Is there any merit to what this person is saying? Is it slanderous? Big question here: Does it make the company look bad? If you said yes, then please react appropriately. Whatever you do, DO NOT LIE to save your bum, because it will come back to bite you on it.

If an apology is in order, say you’re sorry and take corrective and proactive actions. If you feel you need to defend yourself, maturely and thoughtfully do so.

Final Thought

While this may seem like common knowledge, it’s easy to forget tactfulness during stressful times. Know social media can be a resourceful tool, but it can create a monster at the same time. Don’t let one little status update blemish your entire business.

Ok? Class dismissed.

Too read the entire story, click here.

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