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Using Social Media to Recover From Branding Mistakes

Alex Rodriguez, known to baseball fans as “A-Rod”, has found himself surrounded by controversy this summer. After viewing strong evidence that A-Rod used performance-enhancing drugs, Major League Baseball slammed him with a 211-game suspension on August 5, 2013. He appealed the suspension and was placed back in the Yankees starting lineup.

On August 18, A-Rod was first at-bat in the third inning against Boston Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster. Dempster hit Rodriguez in the shoulder with a pitch after taking three obvious shots inside at A-Rod’s legs and at his waist. A few innings later, A-Rod hit a home run off of Dempster. He then became the week’s No. 2 topic on Twitter.

One home run doesn’t make up for all of Rodriguez’s mistakes, but it did go a short way toward redeeming his brand. Follow these tips to make sure that your company hits a social media home run when you experience a branding disaster.

How to Respond to a Brand Crisis
When you find out that someone has posted something negative about your business, you need to respond in under an hour. At the same time, you need to find out what has happened before going into detail.

  1. Start by asking questions. Try a message that involves questioning and discovery: “We saw your post. Can you tell us more about what’s happened?” Take information, but remind the customer to avoid posting personal information online. Your customer should only give personal information, like a telephone or account number, in an e-mail or over the phone.
  2. Acknowledge your customers’ emotions. As the old saying goes, “People don’t remember what you did, but they do remember how you made them feel.” Without talking down to your customers, acknowledge the emotions they’re expressing, which may include anger, confusion and fear.
  3. Always apologize. If your company has made a mistake, then an apology is mandatory. Even if you don’t feel that your company is in the wrong, you can apologize for the inconvenience, for the confusion or for the concerns that the mistake has caused.
  4. Invite contact. Publicly ask the customer to contact your company over the phone. Use the customer’s Twitter handle, or tag the customer on Facebook, and post a public invitation to talk. Avoid asking them to e-mail you; you don’t want a written record of anything negative.
  5. Be transparent. Tell your customers about the problem once you have a full understanding of the facts. Use the social networks that they are using. You may also consider posting an informative YouTube video.
  6. Respond to comments. Don’t ignore customers that are making comments, and never post a “copy and paste” response to each customer. Respond with empathy, an offer to talk and some information about how your company is handling the crisis.

Social Media Gives You Control
When dealing with a brand crisis, be quick and be honest. Build positive capital with your customers before a crisis so that your business can bounce back quickly when it’s over. The good news is that when companies relied more on traditional public relations channels, like newspapers or television, reporters could put their own spin on a negative story. With social media, companies can communicate exactly what they want to say without worrying about filtering their message through an interpreter.

You can use free tools like Google Alerts, Twitter Search and SocialMention that will alert you when your company is mentioned on social media. You can also work with Infintech to develop your own social media crisis response plan. To speak to a social media consultant, call 504-717-4837 today.


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