3 Ways To Prepare For A Social Media Brand Crisis

Why having a strategy in place now will help protect your brand's reputation later.

By Victoria Edwards


All brands at some point will go through a crisis (or several of them) and it’s inevitable that your brand’s social media will play some part in it. From informing your customer of the incident to monitoring various platforms to watch out for various items regarding the event, your social media team needs to be educated and kept abreast of all information that is going on during a crisis. If your social media team isn’t trained or aware of a certain situation, you could seriously put not only your brand’s reputation in jeopardy, but could also be ignoring a large amount of your consumers who communicate heavily within social media.

Situations can explode so quickly online. A brand crisis is bound and going to happen. Reputations can be damaged in real-time.

Let’s look back at the way one recent social media crisis played out online for pizza chain Papa John’s. Then we’ll explore three ways brands can prepare and handle themselves during a crisis.

The Backstory

Recently pop star Iggy Azalea used Twitter to blast Papa John’s in a series of tweets. The media was quickly all over the story. What happened?

A couple days after a new Papa John’s delivery person had dropped off some cheesy goodness to Azalea’s house, she began receiving calls and text messages from phone numbers she didn’t recognize. Come to find out the new pizza delivery person had indeed shared her phone number with several people he knew.

When Azalea reached out to the manager of that branch, he said he would take care of the situation and place that employee on permanent leave. That didn’t happen. Instead, the manager reached out to the employee’s mother so she could reprimand the son.

Azalea quickly fired back at Papa John’s for the lack of professionalism in handling the situation:

A short time after, the senior vice president of the chain reached out to the Azalea, apologized, and quickly rectified the situation.

Externally, this probably wasn’t viewed as a huge crisis for the brand, but from an internal brand perspective, it probably was because the whole incident played out on social media, where potentially millions of people were watching. Companies must always be careful of how they conduct, respond and inform themselves, not only in press releases or web copy, but also in social media.

3 Ways Brands Can Prepare & Handle Themselves During a Crisis

1. Develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

If your brand or business hasn’t created one of these documents, then this is a good place to start. An SOP contains various protocols and procedures that govern the use and maintenance of social media platforms and how employees should conduct themselves online when representing your company.

Some items you can include in this document:

  • How employees should conduct themselves online.
  • A flowchart or document of triaging when it comes to commenting or responding to your customer or audience.
  • Timeframes with regards to response time and how long it will take for your community manager to respond to an inquiry.
  • The review process for content that you post within social media platforms.

Mapping these items in a detailed manner will only help prep your communications and social media team so they can handle themselves consistently online. The SOP can also help mitigate various situations before they get out of hand.

2. Inform Your Company of the Crisis

While members of your social media or communications team will be aware of a developing or full-blown brand crisis, you should never assume that everyone within your company knows. Educate your employees about the situation and communicate any updates as they occur.

Sending out a company-wide email or updating your intranet is probably the most effective way to inform your employees. When your communications team does meet regarding a certain crisis or event, it’s imperative that your social media team is included, as they are the people who directly communicate with your customers in real time.

3. Develop Talking Points

While your employees may be well aware of what is going on when it comes to a crisis, it’s important to share with those people how to respond to the situation in person and online. Developing content in the form of video, a press release, or a blog should be reviewed to make sure that the information is consistent and informative.

Other things you can include in your talking points are:

  • Pre-constructed social media posts or tweets about the situation.
  • A brief summary of the situation.
  • Frequently asked questions and answers about what is going on.

During any brand crisis, it’s important that you do your best to keep your customers informed and educated about the situation. No matter how big or small your company is, you’re bound to run into various levels of incidences.

On social media, you brand or business must do its best to be human, apologetic, and sincere. Ignoring or failing to monitor social media comments during a crisis will reflect poorly on you.

Does your brand have a social media crisis plan in place?