Social Media Backlash? Take These 5 Steps

In an ideal world, a company would never have a PR or social media crisis. This means that a company would never need to face the backlash of a crisis on social media. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world, and so everyone must be prepared for a negative reaction from the online masses.

We’ve all seen it. A business makes a decision, and, as soon as that decision is made, the public and customers are outraged. An outpouring of negative comments and tweets follow, and in the span of a few hours, there’s an entire viral story about the decision and subsequent outrage.

No matter how well any company is prepared for such a situation, there are always a few key steps to take to handle all of the negativity that might pop up on all of the company’s social media feeds.

In a Social Media Crisis, Stay Calm, But Be Quick

When a crisis happens, there’s no room for panic. Panic only leads to bad decisions. Taking a few calming deep breaths to mentally prepare before facing the world is important, but so is avoiding any delays. Waiting around for the issue to solve itself is often likely to make it grow even bigger.

Don’t Ignore It

If people keep commenting on something that the company has done, it’s important to make sure that the topic is acknowledged. This makes the audience feel heard, which, is likely to make people feel recognized and not ignored.

Take Responsibility

Consider where the blame should be directed. No matter who deserves the blame, make sure that the responsible party or parties own up to the mistake and acknowledge what’s been learned because of it. Discuss what safeguards will be instituted to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

Avoid Retaliation

It’s very rarely helpful to attack the people who are posting negative comments. There’s no need to threaten or blame them for the situation. Instead, acknowledge emotions in a polite and calm manner. If the situation begins to get out of hand, if the commenters become abusive, there’s always the option to delete and/or block their messages.

Repairing the Damage

Once the social media crisis has settled down, it’s time to start thinking of ways to repair the public image, without backpedaling on the issue. This is not the time to take shortcuts. Review everything that happened and assess all the actions that should be taken. Taking on the perspective of the audience is a great way to find even more ways to improve the situation. There’s no reason why one mishap should be the end of a business.

The repercussions of any mishaps are likely to be greatly reduced when people feel heard and acknowledged.

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the 10 largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is considered one of America's most prolific and well-respected public relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in the iconic Helmsley Building in Manhattan. Torossian's roster of client experience includes work for L'Oréal, Unilever, Walgreens, SAP NS2, Sparkling Ice, KRUPS, Zeta Global, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Wendy Williams, and others. He also has represented top global brands including Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Microsoft. He was named the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year and Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist. An expert on crisis communications, Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, has appeared on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's 40 under Forty list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations is an industry best-seller.