How to Create a Critical Response Plan

How to Create a Critical Response Plan

Social media is an extremely face-paced environment with the public very unafraid to quickly voice their opinions, both good and bad.  And a single negative customer experience or comment can spread like wildfire.  I’m sure you can think of a few, right?

When this happens, it often leaves those in charge of interacting on your social channels at a loss for what to do next or how to respond properly, even sometimes choosing to do nothing at all.  And doing nothing is very damaging to your brand’s reputation.  So if you don’t have a critical response plan in place to handle emergency situations, you need to develop one ASAP!

Four Parts of an Effective Plan…

To minimize your risk, your critical response plan needs to have these four parts in place:

  1. Monitoring to quickly identify negative sentiment about your brand as it comes to light;
  2. Designated decision-makers authorized to communicate on your brand’s behalf;
  3. Step-by-step action plan with instructions on how to handle potentially critical situations;
  4. Pre-approved messaging in anticipation of any possible negative incident that might occur.

Monitor for Comments…

Monitoring your social pages is particularly important because you want to identify any negative comments about your brand right away.  (And the positive ones, too, by the way.)  This gives you the opportunity to address a problem before it escalates out of control and into a full-blown crisis.

It’s a good idea to track specific words that could show up alongside your brand name to help you identify a potential problem.  There are apps out there that help you do this.

For example, let’s say you have branded social sites for your restaurant.  You can set your app up to look for words like “spoiled” and “food poisoning” that may appear with your restaurant’s name.  Try to think of common misspellings of your restaurant’s name in your setup, too, to catch those comments you might miss otherwise.

Designate who will be responsible for monitoring your social activity, too.  Have protocol in place for whom and when a higher up should be brought into a negative situation when it arises.  By having a plan in place that handles how to quickly catch negative sentiment, it’s easy to prevent a situation from escalating further.  And make it a policy to always offer take the negative conversations into a more private communication channel to keep things well under control.  I cannot emphasize this enough.

Related Article:  Your Online Reputation and Why You Should Care

Designate Who’s Responsible for What…

Designate and publish a list of key decision makers, their titles, and contact information.  Identify each member’s responsibility in a critical response situation.  Consider things like who’ll approve messaging and who’ll be the liaison with the media.  They must be authorized to develop and communicate messaging on behalf of your brand.

Consider how each member will be reached in an emergency situation.  And if they’re not available, who takes their place?  Consider scenarios that may last for several days to weeks.  How will you handle those situations?

Have an Action Plan…

Your critical response plan needs to include a few step-by-step action plans for a variety of potential scenarios that are specific to your business.  You’re going to have to do some brainstorming here.

Let’s say that your restaurant has an outbreak of food poisoning.  Or let’s say that one of your employees sent out a very offensive tweet from your branded Twitter account.  And let’s say that the media picked up on these things.  How would these types of “news events” be handled?

Write down each scenario.  Map out the actual step-by-step process for everyone to follow to effectively handle each situation.  Make it your policy and stand by it.  And if you’re large enough to have a PR agency or in-house marketing team, make sure your step-by-step processes are in alignment with their policies as well.  Make adjustments, if needed.

Pre-Approved Messaging…

Finally, create and make part of your policy pre-approved messages for each scenario.  You don’t want anyone scrambling for something to say in a heated moment.

Consider the tone in which your message should be delivered.  If your company is at fault, make sure that your messaging shows that you appreciate the seriousness of the situation.  You don’t want to be perceived as being defensive.  Take ownership of what’s taken place and make sure that you respond swiftly and effectively.

By having a documented critical response plan in place and making it easily accessible, you’re staying ahead of potentially damaging events.  This way, when they do occur, you have a way to deal with them calmly and effectively like a pro.

Do you have something you’d like to share on this topic?  Leave it in the comment section below.  We love to hear your input.

Wishing you much success…


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