Small businesses are equally susceptible to companywide scandals as larger corporations, but oftentimes, smaller companies lack the necessary resources to adequately handle a crisis. Enlisting the assistance of a PR firm may be beneficial for some brands, but there are several ways you can ensure your reputation stays in tact following an unfortunate incident, whether it pertains to your employees, products or social media conduct.
Your office may not have an Olivia Pope - the infallible fixer from "Scandal" - but if you're searching for some surefire ways to tackle a crisis with care, be sure to keep the following in mind.
Address, don't avoid
When a scandal connected to your company first arises, it can spread like wildfire - especially if your consumers get wind of it on social media. When this occurs, it's imperative to have an emergency meeting within your company to formulate a response immediately. While consumers may still be upset about the incident, addressing it head on is the best way to avoid any unwanted backlash that may indicate your company does not know how to respond or worse - doesn't care. As time wares on, your brand can solidify its response plan, but addressing it immediately may be the best way to appease consumers in the short term.
Timeliness is key
Especially with regard to your online presence, responding quickly is key to your brand's crisis response efforts. Not only do fast responses show consumers that you are aware of the faux-pas and making an attempt to fix it, but slow ones may indicate that your brand is negligent. In April, US Airways was at the center of a Twitter scandal that earned the brand a great deal of scrutiny from its online followers. As it was responding to a consumer's complaint on the site, it attempted to link to a customer service site to give the user a platform on which she could expand upon her claim, but the brand accidentally linked to a pornographic image instead.
While the brand responded and apologized, explaining that it would be seriously reviewing its social media policies to ensure such a crisis would not occur again, it took an entire hour for US Airways to take the image down. During this time, thousands of Twitter users managed to favorite, retweet and respond to the communication, further expanding the reach of the brand's unfortunate accident.
Secure your social media
The importance of engaging with your consumers on social media goes without saying, but this communication is even more crucial during a crisis. With a large-scale incident - such as the one with US Airways - it may be impossible to respond to each tweet, but small business owners should reassure consumers that they are making efforts to quell their concerns. Remaining active on social media during a scandal is important for your brand, as it illustrates that your business is deeply sorry for its actions and willing to make amends wherever necessary.