As a rule, any brand should have its messaging in order, including reactive ones in the event of a digital snafu. Using a basic SWOT analysis, identify potential issues including shifts in regulations, social media misuse, a competitor's surge, zombie uprisings, hacked accounts, or Mayan Apocalypses.
A day at the breach
Dedicated cybercriminals are hard to defeat, but you don’t have to make it easy for them. Upgrade security and avoid passwords like "password" or "123456." As Mat Honan of Wired magazine found out, hackers will flush your entire digital life just to get a twitter handle.
Assign social media responsibility to someone other than a junior staff member. Young interns may be more apt to know about the latest Internet meme or funniest Tumblr but also be potentially more at risk to make a mistake. As happened with Kitchen Aid, a personal tweet could be inadvertently posted to a brand account, a scenario more likely than having your account hijacked. Kraig Smith, founder of PReturn, counsels to "entrust [the social media] role to a spokesperson capable of talking to the New York Times or any important trade publication. Treat social media like the central communication vehicle it's become."
Get good counsel and take aim
Should your brand be hijacked (Burger King and Jeep) or compromised by offensive advertising (Groupon), mount a response immediately. Invite the lawyers to your first meeting and set an expectation with management that next steps may involve uncomfortable new tactics. Michael Barron, Michael Barron of Barron Peck Bennie & Schlemmer counsels his clients to get out in front of potentially embarrassing oversights or mistakes. "People appreciate it when you take responsibility for your errors. If you run your organization with the primary focus of avoiding lawsuits, you'll go out of business. There's a certain amount of risk involved with running a successful endeavor."
A number of studies seem to back up the idea that individuals hurt by your company are less likely to litigate when simply offered an apology and a reasonable action plan to avoid future harm. Barron added that some states require notification when there's a data breach. Also, be aware of your company's insurance policy to avoid jeopardizing coverage with a public statement. Usually, apologies cost less than lawsuits.
When you think search, think social, too
Paid search is a fast way to respond publicly. When trouble strikes, anticipating the questions people will ask is the quickest way to articulate answers you would like them to see. Although difficult, build a portfolio of negative intent keywords-- you don’t have to agree with a keyword to bid on it. Focus on paid search instead of SEO and display to have an active voice in the conversation, as the idea is to be heard versus raise awareness. Smith reminds you to “ensure a holistic view and keep messaging consistent across channels by including Live Chat and Call Center employees in the strategy."
Hashtags let people structure an instant forum for ideas, opinions or news. Your issue may warrant hashtag creation and full-time dialog monitoring until it subsides. Smith recommends maintaining an active Twitter presence, regardless. Be proactive about sharing good news prior to any negative event.
With Facebook’s Graph Search, thinking about traditional search engines is no longer enough. Graph Search only searches your personal network and, unlike Twitter, there are constraints around what is visible. Share good news frequently and the bad will be better balanced.
Corned beef hashtag
Like all marketing, it’s essential to set goals for your disaster response. Do you have keywords and copy uploaded, so it’s only a matter of activating them when needed? Look at search volume estimates and compare your campaign’s clicks to determine reach over the period. Defining expectations and measurement techniques in advance will let you focus on helping your customers and your company.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency relies informally on the Waffle House Index as an indicator of storm severity and projected level of assistance in disaster recovery. The Waffle House restaurant chain has a reputation for staying open during extreme weather conditions or reopening quickly, with limited menu items, following a storm-related closure. Professor Panos Kouvelis, quoted in the Wikipedia entry on the Index, says this demonstrates good risk management and disaster preparedness as the restaurants have a plan and are prepared for times of limited power and supplies.
Whether you are preparing for a lunch or a launch, ask yourself: is my brand Waffle House-ready?