Managing your Reputation during a Social Media Crisis

CARMA participated in panels on crisis management, in Singapore and Malaysia. Joined by WWF, Qi Group, Sime Darby Plantation, Petronas, and Media.Monks, the viewpoints provided by the panelists allowed us to examine various aspects of crisis management.

When a social media crisis strikes, the ability to respond swiftly and effectively is critical. “In these situations, the PR person has to be the calmest one,” WWF’s Hazel shared about navigating a crisis.

Social media posts innately have the ability to gain traction and go viral. Hazel continued, “You need to manage the catalysts – the ones who made the situation go viral”.

Determine whether a response is needed first and foremost

The panelists collectively agreed that not all negative comments or social media posts require a response.

Organisations should evaluate the impact and influence of the individuals behind such comments. It is worth only addressing issues that genuinely affect their brand reputation.

Andrew from CARMA stated, “There is a difference between popularity and influence. Just because you follow someone doesn’t mean that you will take advice from them.

Companies that understand advocates and detractors will be able to make better decisions during a social media crisis.

Not every incident will mar a company’s reputation. In these instances, it is better to keep your head down and let the crisis tide over, while continuously building your brand story and narrative.

“Social media usually carries either extremely positive or extremely negative opinions. Netizens will take to social media to either shower praise on their favourite brands, or tend to be highly critical. The moderate majority is often overlooked.”

Andrew on the types of perspectives found on social media

Communicate from a position of honesty

The panels stressed upon the importance of reaching out to internal stakeholders first before they hear about the crisis from other external sources. This approach helps maintain their trust and support.

As explained by Sujatani from Petronas, “Honesty is crucial in crisis communication to provide assurance to your audience, customers, and sales. Balancing what you communicate and understanding the risks involved is essential.”

Light-hearted communication has a place during a crisis

Depending on the nature of the crisis, a more casual approach may resonate with consumers better in the midst of a crisis. Qi Group’s Ramya highlights an incident where the company faced a crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Qi Group’s response was focused on creative communication. Memes and regular social media campaigns helped reassure customers that the company was on top of the incident.

Ramya explained, “Sometimes, just providing regular updates, over the exact details of the crisis, gives customers the reassurance they need. They know that you’re there and you’re doing something.”

How to prepare for and prevent crises

Leela from Sime Darby Plantation reminds PR leaders to ensure that your housekeeping is in place.

She shared, “We maintain a risk register for every conceivable risk, categorised with traffic light colors. If there are any red lights in your risk register, you must be on top of the situation.

She continued, “Additionally, you need media monitoring. I cannot stress this enough: having timely information is crucial. It means that when a crisis occurs, you will hear about it first before hearing about it from Twitter or from the press.

Ramya discussed the importance of having well-trained spokespersons throughout the organisation and ensuring consistency in messaging across all touchpoints.

She noted that every customer touchpoint, from receptionists to customer service, must be equipped with templates for addressing crisis-related queries.

Andrew underscored the importance of rapid response protocols and coordinated messaging. In his experience, this approach has proven effective in resolving crises.

Importance of a post-crisis evaluation

Both panels highlighted the need for evaluation after a crisis. Hazel points out, “It is important to monitor and measure key stats. It provides you with data and insights such as length of the incident, and how long it took to resolve.”  

Sabrina from CARMA noted on the importance of measuring your reputation post-crisis. Perception surveys, employee engagement and social media comments are some examples of what organisations can look at to benchmark their reputation – “Are you looking at your perception surveys? Are your stakeholders advocating for you? How are they reacting to your brand post-crisis?”  

Assessing their reputation helps organisations understand how resilient their reputation is, identify potential issues and gauge their ability to withstand the next potential crisis.

Sabrina continued, “We need to think about reputational resilience as well. It is important to evaluate post-crisis about the gaps and opportunities identified, the kind of messaging you want to push out, and how that reflects your reputation.” 

The Singapore panel consisted of Andrew Nicholls, Managing Director at CARMA Asia; Ramya Chandrasekaran, Chief Communications Officer at Qi Group; Hazel Xu, Head of Brand and Communications at WWF-Singapore; and was moderated by Charlotte McEleny, PR Director at Media.Monks.

The Malaysia panel consisted of Sabrina Azmi, Head of Client Services at CARMA Asia; Leela Barrock, Chief Communications Officer at Sime Darby Plantation; P Sujatani Poosparajah, Head of Strategic Communications at PETRONAS Dagangan Berhad; and was moderated by Malathi Pillay, Strategic Branding & Communications Professional.

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