How to manage those ‘Oops’ and ‘Uh-oh’ moments.
“I think I did something terrible!!”
Not the call you expect from your sister on a Sunday night. Let me start off with this — I knew it wouldn’t actually be terrible because, well, she’s my sister, I can tell these things.
Let’s rewind about 4 hours when I got a text from her, whilst she was out for brunch at a lovely restaurant in Portugal on holiday — “Niall from One Direction is a few tables away from us”.
My reaction? “Don’t you dare get a selfie with him, I will never forgive you” (I’m not a crazed 1D fan. Was just mortified by the thought of it).
An hour later I get sent a photo. It’s not a selfie, granted, but it is a photo of Niall with my 8-month old baby nephew. Exasperated (and, ok, now a little jealous by this) I suddenly find it hysterical whilst sat in the middle of a conference and trying not to laugh.
I momentarily think for a second, that maybe I should advise her not to post it on social media, knowing how OTT 1D fans can sometimes get, but I put it to the back of my mind and think nothing more.
Fast forward to Sunday evening, and this “I’ve done something terrible” phone call.
Turns out, maybe I should have given her that advice. While posting the photo to Instagram, she managed to tick the ‘tweet’ option as well, with the obvious 1d related hashtags. Within about 30 seconds, my nephew goes viral (note the number of RT’s on this one tweet) with some very excited 1D fans retweeting, sharing, saving and posting the photo and wondering where Niall is in Portugal and, actually, who is that baby?
“Am I going to get in trouble?”, “Did I do something wrong” she mildly panics down the phone, with my brother-in-law laughing in the background.
Truthfully? No, she didn’t do anything wrong. What she did do, however, was something that she didn’t mean to do. She accidentally over-shared a guaranteed shareable, viral piece of content. 1) because it’s Niall from 1D, and 2) my nephew is adorable, and I’m not biased because Twitter now agrees with me.
In this instance, no harm done really. We’ve all done it on a personal level, right? But what about in the real-world, when celebrities tweet things they ‘don’t mean to’ (aka, they mean it but then panic and see the error in their ways). A ‘funny’ tweet gets out of hand. Or a social media team in a company goes rogue — HMV and Vodafone being just two examples.
It happens, a lot. We see it again and again. This means that having a plan, or crisis communications in place is becoming increasingly critical. You can’t predict every scenario (I never in a million years thought I’d be writing a blog post about Niall from 1D and a photo of my nephew) but if you prepare for the unexpected, it won’t surprise you. Here’s a few short tips on how to tackle this daunting process:
1. List your fears. Your smallest fears, your biggest fears and your most ridiculous fears about a crisis that would affect you/your company what might go wrong
2. Rank those fears in importance out of 5. 1 being “not the end of the world” and 5 being “it’s the end of the world”. When doing this, think about how others might respond, not just your perception. Ask friends, ask around. You never know what might get ‘big’.
3. Start small. Start with your 1’s — how would you respond, or react? Write it down. Have some pre-prepped statements or messages so you don’t get caught out. Think about whether you would even respond, and who you would respond to.
4. The middle rankers — take them a little bit more seriously. Repeat step 3, but with more thought, write down the types of media or audience that might react and who you may hear from if it ever happens. Prepare your statements, and think about what possible consequences could come from those scenarios.
5. The big stuff. Those 5/5’s. Hopefully, you should have very few of these. These are where you plan specific actions to take for yourself, or with your company to respond to that crisis. Would you need to prepare official media statements, would you need legal representation, would you respond or have a professional help you? Do you need to close your company as a result, or stand down as an official representative?
As far as today’s incident goes? It’s a 1/5, if even that. More than anything it’s quite funny, but having said that, I’m keeping an eye out because — you never know! Thankfully, right now the worst that is coming out of it are people saying that Niall is cuter than my nephew which, frankly, isn’t true…
This stuff is important. Talk to me about your social crisis communications planning via firstname.lastname@example.org.