social media crisis public relations

Social media has forever changed how people stay in touch with each other and get updates on each other’s lives. With a scroll and a click, people reminisce on their past, see what old friends are up to now and even dig into the seemingly scandalous personal lives of A-list celebrities.

Because of its soaring popularity, many brands turn to social media to help with marketing and public relations efforts. However, increasingly, brands also use social media as part of their crisis communications plan.

Love/Hate Relationship with Citizen Journalists

In the past, journalists either went to school to learn how to investigate and report on issues, or they learned through years of experience. However, in today’s day and age, virtually anyone can publish their own reports and editorials on what matters to them.

As a direct result, not only do incidents make it to the media immediately, but it spreads like wildfire, and we watch it happening in real-time. This makes it difficult to keep bad press under wraps when problems arise and often makes issues look far worse than they actually are. Even one post from a disgruntled customer in the middle of nowhere could hold a spot in the limelight for months to come.

However, in times of recovering from crises, these very features about social media make it a constant help. Through social media, users can share information, garner awareness and raise money for victims affected by a crisis. Social media ambassadors can also “lobby” on their client’s behalf, injecting a different perspective and help save their good image.

Staying On Top of New Developments

Sometimes though, crises do not originate with a brand or come from any fault of its employees. Instead, the crisis may originate from external factors, like poor weather, oil spills or a supplier failing to meet inspection criteria. For this reason, brands should be attentive and understand the elements of a crisis before customers and media outlets do.

Planning ahead for a crisis allows companies to meet it head on when it strikes. By being the first to share the bad news, many companies also prevent the likelihood of looking like a guilty accomplice.

It can also help customers to prepare for the repercussions of crises like bad weather where an event should take place, or oil spills moving towards the beach at a hotel near where they planned to vacation. This may lead to a feeling of gratitude and increased loyalty towards the company.

Remaining as the Key Source

During a crisis, along with citizen journalists, many others news outlets and brands will lend their voice to the issue at hand. However, to maintain control of the information, as best as possible, brands should use social media and their own website when possible to remain the key source of information.

This means staying transparent and sharing updates as things happen. Doing so increases the likelihood that customers and the public will turn to the brand directly for information, rather than rely on the more sensational stories that other sources may weave.

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.