Memphis PR experts tell what to do when you're in a social media crisis

Posted 14.08.2015

By Michelle Corbet

Memphis Business Journal

Russ Williams, CEO of Archer/Malmo, said you can drive a very large truck through the definition of "social media."

Social media is a hot button topic in the advertising and marketing industry right now, with disgruntled customers hashing out their dissatisfaction on social media.

Most agencies think helping clients understand what’s being said about their brand, where it’s being said and how it differs between channels, is best left to social media professionals.

Helping clients understand which channels they want to be involved in and how they can proactively interact with customers on those channels is a responsibility shared by creative and public relations departments alike, saidKen Rohman, chief digital officer at Archer/Malmo.

For example, if a customer puts something negative about a brand on a public platform like Twitter or Facebook, agencies can help develop an action plan.

“If someone puts on your Facebook wall, ‘Your product gave me cancer,’ how are you going to handle it?” Rohman asked.

Archer/Malmo has put together pages and pages of “decision trees” that help answer questions like, ‘Is it true or not,’ ‘What do we do,’ and ‘Who do we contact.’

All of that has to happen in a very short time table, Rohman said.

Brian Sullivan, principal of Sullivan Branding, said it needs to be taken care of within 24 hours.

Sullivan Branding develops an “escalation tree” that determines what situations the firm can respond to and what a client must address.

Sullivan said social media should be a full-time job, whether it’s an employee hire or handled by an agency.

“In the corporate world, one thing we’ve seen a lot of is instead of adding headcount, they’ll add another job with social media falling into the category of giving it to the marketing person instead of subbing out to an agency,” Sulllivan said.

These things tend to happen at off hours, rarely between 8 a.m and 5 p.m., but since they occur in the public domain, they must be responded to in a public way, Rohman said, while at the same time trying to get the conversation off-line.

“We have to make sure we get to the bottom of solving the problem, hopefully behind the scenes a little bit, make it right, get the reaction, then clarify online in a public forum that everyone is happy again and we have turned them into a brand advocate,” Rohman said.

Having all that figured out in advance must fall to someone that understands reputation management, but the physical aspect of responding to it needs to be the brand, Rohman said.

“If something happens at Memphis Pizza Cafe, let’s say, someone from Memphis Pizza Cafe needs to be the face of that resolution,” Rohman said.

Williams said it’s best to have a professional firm develop a social media strategy for a client, but it’s often best for the day-to-day management of it to be done hands-on by a mid-sized company.

Rohman said it’s important to not only be aware of what’s going on within the company’s channels, but also what’s becoming a national trend, like when Texas fast food chain Whataburger weighed in with a beefy tweet in the Twitter spat between rappers Drake and Meek Mill last month.

The Twitter disses began when Mill tweeted that Drake didn’t write his own songs. Drake responded with the freshly cut track, “Back to Back,” with Meek releasing his own track a week later that was not as well received.

Whataburger fed the fire while promoting their brand with a tweet that read, “Meek Mill take it from us- if you gonna serve beef serve it high quality.”

“Understanding what’s going on in the world, not just with your brand, and having some perspective and figuring out how to be part of that conversation is really impressive,” Rohman said.