Social Media: the fire and water of modern-day PR


Someone once asked me why I have accounts and almost all of the social media platforms and yet barely use them (use here meaning posting and sharing). I honestly didn’t have an answer for the person years ago prior to joining the field of Public Relations (PR), but I believe all along I have been wary about the usage of social media as I inherently feared its positives could become disadvantageous as well.

Presently in the digital age, companies and brands have trooped to social media and new media at large – relying on them in the conduct of their businesses and engaging with customers. In as much as their platforms can be used for good, they can sharply turn into a nightmare for brands.

It is typical for most brands to use social media in launching campaigns, promoting and enjoying the positives and advantages presented by social media; but the worst comes to bear when this tool that brands love so much becomes a raging fire, scorching all their hard work and reputation in its path.

With issues quickly developing into crisis on social media, the saying “you don’t let anyone tell your story” becomes critical in PR. This means as soon as social media is set ablaze with negative information about your brand, you need to set events in motion to address these issues rather than assume they will blow over; mind you, social media never forgets.

Types of social media crisis

  • Multi-channel crisis – Extremely dangerous because it has the potential to go viral and generate a great deal of negative publicity very quickly.
  • Emerging crisis – If you don’t anticipate and deal with it as soon as possible, it can quickly escalate into a bigger scandal.
  • Industry crisis – Occurs when a vendor or competitor is experiencing a social media crisis. For example, when many fashion-brands are suddenly all attacked for non-transparent actions.
  • Fake news – In the age of social media, a post can go viral in just one click. The ability to detect rumours about your brand quickly is essential.

Should PR Professionals fear social media?

Imagine you belong to a world-class brand with a reputation for being the best out there, and all of a sudden a customer shares a bad experience with your brand on social media. Then this story gets shared a million times and over in a few hours. Conspiracy theories are then birthed from this crisis and it begins to hurt your reputation the more. As a PR professional, what then will you do and what would you not do?

What you shouldn’t do when a crisis erupts on social media

  • Here, the saying “silence means consent (truth)” becomes true. As a PR professional, you should know how to address concerns that erupt on social media as soon as possible rather than keep silent and hope it will blow over; because, believe me, you it won’t. And even if it does, it would have caused irreparable damage to your brand.
  • Never delete posts which criticise your brand or client. It is common to see some PR managers delete posts of their brands on social media, thinking so far as it cannot be seen anymore no harm can be done. Others go as far as disabling comments and messaging access on the social media handles. As a brand, this is a no-go area since doing so makes you seem insensitive to the plight of your customers and consumers.
  • Address concerns which erupt on one platform on another. It is just wrong to address a crisis that erupted on Twitter and Facebook first, as it a complete disregard to your publics. As a PR professional, fight social media fire with social media water. This goes to say you first address issues which pop on twitter on twitter, and later issue responses on other platforms.

Detect – React – Prevent

Preventing a social media crisis is possible if you react quickly and detect the dangers as soon as they occur. With a myriad of content format and platforms associated to social media, PR professionals can take advantage of that and utilise them for the overall wellbeing of their stakeholders.

>>>the writer is a PR Account Executive, Global Media Alliance

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