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Seven steps for managing a digital PR crisis

Don't Panic BadgeThe growth of digital and social media means negative news or a full blown PR crisis has greater reach and can potentially (via search engines) stick around for much longer than it used to.  So I was interested to come across a really useful webinar last week in which Microsoft UK marketing manager, Cedric Chambaz, outlined a seven step guide for addressing a social media PR crisis.

I’ve prepared a summary below and noted the significance of SEO in many of the points – underlining the need for PRs to have a good grasp of SEO basics.

Step 1: Make sure you’ve already done your desk research.  This is about making sure you know where people are talking about your company, products and industry online. Use the search engines and investigate any relevant social networks and forums.

Step 2: ‘SEO your CEO’ or spokesperson.  In other words, build legitimacy for them around the Internet.  They need to have up to date social networking accounts (Twitter , Facebook, LinkedIn etc) and should already be vocal on the networks and forums, as well as online media.  So if someone is searching for your brand on search engines or appropriate networks or forums, they should quickly come across your spokesperson – which basically means they’ll be ‘heard/seen’ on searches when/if they have to respond to a PR crisis.

Step 3: Have a social charter in place which includes guidelines on how long you should wait before responding to negative issues within social media. It is tempting to react straight away, but there is  a danger that this could just inflame the issue further.

Step 4: Assess what’s actually happening before you act: there might be negative voices, but check to see if people are already saying positive stuff to defend your organisation.  Obviously, it is much stronger if somebody else – not connected to your organisation – is responding to the criticism

Step 5: If a crisis occurs and you want to publish a reactive statement, it obviously needs to be search engine optimised – signposted with the right key words ie the words that people will actually be using to search for info related to the crisis.

Step 6: Consider using pay per click advertising around the key words that are being used in searches.  With PPC you can react quickly  and top every relevant search result (providing you fork out the money) with a link to your web site where you put across your response to the negative issue.

Step 7: Ensure you do the post crisis digital ‘cleaning up’.  This last step – which is sometimes forgotten – is  all about making sure you create some SEO optimised positive stories (around the key words relating to the negative issue) to push down the negative story in search engine listings.

If you want more info, it’s worth listening to the full webinar (see link above) which covers the wider issue of the way Social Media and SEO interact and is hosted by New Media Age magazine.

Photo credit: Jim Linwood