What Woolworths could have done differently…

How to Manage your Brand in a Crisis

You may have already heard the news that Woolworths SA was forced to disable their Facebook timeline following a flood of abusive comments on their Company Page.

Please be assured that here at eMarketing Solutions we don’t believe in criticizing other brands. But the reality is that most companies or brands are likely to suffer some form of backlash, criticism, and in some cases, even verbal abuse at some stage in the life of their business. The difference between #Win and #Fail however, is achieved in how your brand responds when faced with this predicament.

Our business aim is to analyse, learn & deduce variable outcomes from these incidents, in order to better prepare our clients to:

a)    avoid such a situation if at all possible, and
b)    act accordingly so that you may save face, overcome the challenge, and repair most of the damage caused to your brands reputation in the event that this does happen.

Here are a few points where we believe that if Woolworths may have acted differently, this drastic measure could have been avoided…

Apologise. Up until the writing of this blog, I have yet to see a heartfelt apology from any official spokesperson representing Woolworths, let alone the CEO.

You may believe that you are not entirely at fault, and this could be true, but if your supporters believe that you have stepped out of line, you need to address them and apologise for any confusion or misunderstanding, and let them know how you plan on rectifying the situation (i.e. improved, clear, regular communication to the public on WW employment policy and new appointments in WW newsletters / emails, etc.). Always remember that a sincere apology will go a long way in winning over your public.

A truthful act/acknowledgement of regret and a vow to correct the matter have proven to quickly turn large groups of supporters back to your corner; while some may take longer to forget; and, unfortunately other relationships may never be repaired. But be warned, don’t say it if you don’t mean it. People will know if an apology is hollow and the masses will be brutal.

Social Media Policy. Ensure that you have a clear link to your Social Media Policy visible on your website, be it separate or incorporated in your terms and conditions regarding the usage of all your digital communication channels.

When engagement on your Page becomes abusive, threatening, or inappropriate, then the individuals responsible need to be reminded that they are in contradiction of the company social policy and that their posts may be removed, and in severe cases, should the abuse continue, that they may be blocked from further participation on the Page. Unfortunately this is easier to enforce with one or two individuals. Approaching a mob of attackers with this message without further fuelling their anger will require a ton more finesse. Speak to the experts…let eMarketing Solutions’ experienced hand provide you with the needed guidance.

Maintain communication.  If you shut down your Page where you usually actively engage with your community, it tends to be a little harder to recover from an online attack. This is why disabling your Page should be an absolute last resort. As long as you still have loyal fans standing up for you in such verbal battles, don’t close your communication channel. Just one well placed positive comment from a customer can change the entire community’s perception, outweighing 1000 negative comments, and uniting customers to a greater cause in support of your brand. Never underestimate your brand ambassadors and never close the door which ties them to you.

Crisis Management. Trying to manage a crisis situation in the Digital age, with the viral capabilities of today’s social channels, can be a daunting task.  This is why it is even more important to have a predefined crisis communication plan in place should such a situation arise. Timing is everything, and ensuring that one coherent message is shared across all channels is vital.

Know where conversations about your brand are taking place, know which conversations to get involved in, and remember to always display your personality, be genuine in all your responses, and keep the community informed every step of the way.

This is the essence of Brand Management.

Finally, as much as one can plan for such a situation, it is not to say that things will always go according to plan. One irate customer hitting the right nerve can ignite the whole process again. This is why we recommend that you look to someone with the needed experience to assist you.

At eMarketing Solutions our approach is Strategic, our Social Media Management System takes the uncertainty out of Brand management, and our results speaks for themselves.

Your brand in expert hands… eMarketing Solutions.

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