Crisis management in social media and content marketing

content marketing

I spent much of yesterday caught up in Apocaclipse 2017 (even though the clouds made it impossible to see much of anything). At one point, I posted to Facebook that I had heard “Don’t look at it!” so many times I was starting to have flashbacks of that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where the Nazis opened the Ark of the Covenant. For a moment, though, I hesitated, wondering if I’d get any backlash from using the word “Nazis.”

Fortunately, I didnt. But that momentary hesitation was the catalyst for this post: How do we approach content marketing when we know that somebody could take offense at just about anything we say? (And now I’m wondering if I’m going to get accused of implying some people are snowflakes…)

I’m certainly not suggesting that we stop thinking about the impact our content may have on others. I’m just saying that, whatever you may think of political correctness in 2017, it’s indisputable that you will, at some point, offend a portion of your audience. The only question is what to do about it.

Make a plan

  • How do you define a social media crisis, both quantitatively and qualitatively? Is the threshold a certain number of Tweets or Facebook comments, or is it more of an, “Uh oh, this is getting ugly” gut response?
  • What types of social media crises are you likely to encounter, and how will each be handled? Is unintentionally releasing proprietary information handled the same way as using offensive language? Is using a single four-letter word handled the same way as getting into an argument with or insulting a customer?
  • Who has the authority to handle and/or respond to a social media crisis?
  • How far up the ladder does a response to the crisis need to go? Is it handled at the managerial level or in the c-suite?
  • Under what circumstances might you choose not to respond?
  • What, if any, disciplinary action will be taken with the employee who posted? Will intention be considered?
  • Since the internet never sleeps, what, if any, circumstances would justify waking an executive up in the middle of the night?

Questions like these are almost guaranteed to make your lawyers sweat and your front-line employees back away from the keyboard. But, if you haven’t already had this conversation, you need to. These aren’t questions you’re going to want to ask and answer for the first time in the middle of a social media firestorm.

Prioritize prevention

Determine whether any automated messages could backfire in a crisis

Know what’s in the pipeline

Make sure all employees who post on your company’s behalf are properly trained

Encourage employees not to share passwords or leave their desks unattended with any social media platform open

Stress the importance of making sure employees are posting on the right account

content marketing
content marketing

Take advantage of your team’s diversity.

Back each other up.

content marketing
content marketing

And, as if the picture weren’t bad enough, the tagline read, “Just being white, you will win.” I kid you not. It makes me wonder about their review process. Surely anyone with even a passing knowledge of American culture would have had alarm bells going off all over the place.

Weather the storm

Get the timing right

Identify the real problem

I thought it was hilarious — because how clueless can you be? — and enthusiastically regaled my colleagues with the story. But this was in the early 90s, when political correctness was just starting to be a thing, and the powers that be were nowhere near as amused as I was. They made the guy call me later to apologize:

Ma’am, I’m sorry. I never should have said that to you. You could have been somebody’s wife or something.”

I think I managed to hang up the phone before I started laughing hysterically (it didn’t help that 3 VPs were crowded into my office to watch me take the call). Because an apology is clearly not the end of cluelessness.

The moral of the story: Make sure you know what people are upset about before you react. Otherwise, you’ll get even more of a backlash for being out of touch.

Lead the charge in poking fun at your “stupid” mistakes

content marketing eclipse
content marketing eclipse

Not long ago, there was a story about a mom who asked the museum in her town if they could reschedule their eclipse-watching party. If this woman even exists (there has been some debate) she’s probably pretty smart. After all, she’s checking out museums for things to do with her kids instead of stuffing them full of fat and germs at fast food play centers! She probably knows good and well that the museum can’t reschedule the eclipse, and, once she realized what she had done, her face was probably as red from embarrassment as everyone else’s was from laughing.

I first encountered this when I was a teenager working as a tour guide at Graceland, Elvis Presley’s home. I can’t tell you how many people asked questions that made us question their ability to function in the real world:

  • Countless people, upon viewing the costume Elvis wore in his last concert, asked, “Is that the suit he was buried in?”
  • People touring Elvis’s plane often asked, “Did his plane have a sunroof?” (To be fair, there was an indentation in the ceiling, but still…)
  • Upon seeing a picture of Elvis and his dad in Elvis’s last concert, people would often ask, “Was that picture taken before or after his dad died?”

And I swear on my little southern heart that this really happened… Elvis’s Aunt Delta lived in the house while tours were going on. Her dog, Edmund, sometimes pooped in the Jungle Room. I cannot even begin to tell you how many people asked if the poop was there when Elvis died. (We truly feared for our species…)

The point is that we all have occasional brain blips, and laughing at yourself is far more effective than getting defensive. And you’ll get kudos for joining in the fun.

Offer reasons, but not excuses

Describe which actions (if any) you’ll be taking to prevent future problems

Know when to shut up

Every day, we churn out 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. On a minute-by-minute basis, that includes approximately 350,o00 Tweets, 400 hours of video, 2.5 million Instagram posts, and 3 million Facebook posts. And that’s not counting blog posts and emails.

I know it’s a cliche, but do the math. Statistically, you’ll eventually have a social media “oops.” The only way to avoid it completely is to not have an online presence at all. But, since that’s not realistic in today’s world, do the next-best thing by having a plan in place to minimize the risks and to repair the damage when something goes wrong.

Originally published at

Wife, mother, and content marketing consultant. Discovering and enjoying life as a work-from-home business owner while #50ishwithafullnest.