10 steps to support your business with a crisis management plan

5 min read
Abdelrahman Sleem

In life, and in business, reputation is everything. That said, reputation is very fragile, and it only takes one mistake to cause irreparable damage to your company’s image. This is especially true in the digital world where radical transparency and high customer expectations reign supreme. Ignoring strong public digital voices isn’t an option anymore. Companies must learn to not only communicate effectively in the social media age, but to truly listen to the social conversations and respond in the way that aligns with both brand and customer expectations. In this article we’ll go through 10 steps to help your business create an effective crisis management plan.

Create a crisis management plan in 10 steps

  1. Define the scope of your crisis.
  2. Set the right expectations.
  3. Establish a unified response system.
  4. Don’t lose your cool or freak out, ever.
  5. Build a pressure relief valve.
  6. Find out what your customers need from you?
  7. Remember to document everything.
  8. Establish a media response policy.
  9. Hire experienced community managers.
  10. Be prepared for the post crisis phase.

Define the scope of your crisis

Crises vary levels and intensity. The first level of crisis is where your customer complains on Facebook about your product or service, then you get back to the customer and the complaint wouldn’t fade away.

The second level is when you implement new policies or increase your product’s prices, and when customers complain; you ignore them on social platforms, which might lead to a blitz on your brand, and you’d still not respond.

Ask yourself which level am I on? Is my crisis local, national or global? While the steps to resolve it will probably be the same, the execution and implementation process of your actions will vary depending on the severity of the issue.

Set the right expectations

If you are a small business or have limited bandwidth to respond to customer inquiries in real-time, then set the right expectations up front on the timing within which people should expect your response. Is it 24, 48, or 72 hours? Try to be specific and make this information visible to ensure that customers see it. And make sure that you stick to your promise.

Related: 5 ways to keep your customers informed about changes to your business

Establish a unified response system

Social media lashes can feel personal. After all, it is your brand’s reputation on the line. Don’t take these criticisms personally or take a defensive stance. Your social media crisis management plan must always be intact and in place. Have a dedicated social media crisis management team in place. This way, your response will remain organized, strategic and streamlined.

Related: Crisis Management: How can you help your business through tough times

Don’t lose your cool or freak out, ever

There may be times when you disagree with your customers. But it is unacceptable to ignore them, be rude or attack them on social media platforms. Provide them with the most useful information and get back to their inquiries. If they insist on being uncooperative, just clarify your point of view and move on.
And don’t take things personally, as the customer isn’t angry at you. Their problem is with the product or the brand itself, so don’t take these interactions personally. Just do your best to help them out and move on.

Related: Create a winning social media strategy for your business in 8 steps

Build a pressure relief valve

This may be self-evident, but you want your audience to vent about you somewhere you can monitor and get back to them.

Whether it’s your Facebook page, blog, forum, or comments section in your crisis FAQ microsite, there are four benefits to this approach:

  • It allows you to keep the conversations about the crisis in a single place, which makes it easier to track.
  • It’s an early warning detection system for new dimensions of the crisis.
  • It gives your customers an official place to communicate their concerns with you.

Find out what your customers need from you?

These are things your customers want during a crisis:

  • That you hear them and listen to whatever they want to say.
  • Their opinions and suggestions matter
  • They are a valuable part of your success, and their feedback is important

Remember to document everything

Keep good records of your in-house activity around this time. Your social media accounts will help you keep track of the ongoing conversations so you can go back and review later to tweak your system.

Establish a media response policy

This part is relatively simple. Remember to:

  • Stick to the facts.
  • Don’t stonewall.
  • Keep your statements limited to the problem at hand.
  • Implement a media monitoring plan so you don’t miss a repeat wave of backlash elsewhere.

Hire experienced community managers

There are still some organizations that treat social media communities as a simple task that they can assign it to a trainee to post and tweet occasionally. Your social media is every bit as part of your brand image and reputation – so hire professionals!
A community manager should be experienced, know your brand in and out, understand your brand’s voice and personality.

Related: The don’ts and don’ts of social media marketing for SMBs

Be prepared for the post crisis phase

Once the storm is over, your social media management team should sit down and review their communication and activity during the crisis. This will help them determine what went well, what didn’t and how things should be handled differently next time. Ask about the changes that need to be done in the business to prevent the repetition of the same mistakes, overcome poor customer service, product malfunction, or miscellaneous event that led to the crisis.

At the end don’t forget that your greatest investment is your relationship with your customers is your greatest investment. So, take good care of them.