As I sit here typing this, I am trying to “catch my breath.” We received notice that an event hosted by one of our clients must be canceled because of COVID-19. This was my account and I suddenly found myself handling our business crisis on social media and I had to do it fast. I poured my heart and then some into publicizing this event for the last 6 months. To be canceled the day before was disappointing, to say the least. Our participants, who had literally put their blood, sweat, and tears working towards this day, were not happy.
As I watched the notifications line up on my computer screen and listened to the constant dinging, I felt overwhelmed. My stomach hurt. It was wild. So many questions and few answers…demands…complaints…and the occasional encouragement.
We made it through and I think we did a pretty darn good job considering. I learned many new things (and can still learn a lot more) but I thought it was worth sharing with the world so if you are tasked with handling your business crisis on social media, maybe you will be a little more prepared.
Once our official statement was in hand, our team quickly looked it over (even with those not familiar with the details) and asked: “What questions would you have after reading this?” We then put together responses for those questions to the best of our ability. Some we did not have answers for yet. (More notes on how to handle that below.)
We get it. You are stressed and maybe even angry at having to cancel, postpone, change, or deal with this dilemma publicly. You are probably losing money as a business owner. The last thing you want to do is handle your business crisis on social media. You have to put yourself in the shoes of your audience though. They are disappointed, angry, and maybe lost money also. Change is never easy for a person. Empathy is feeling what someone is feeling because you have lived through it also.
Before posting or replying, take a minute to consider how they feel and acknowledge that.
“We are sad too…”
“We are disappointed too…”
“We feel it too…”
Say you’re sorry if it is warranted. If you are at fault, own it.
“We are sorry this happened. We are sad too….”
“We regret that this happened. We are sorry….”
“We feel _____ too and are sorry this happened.”
Reiterate the Positives
Look for the positives you can reinforce. Are you offering a discount code for the future? Is there a reschedule date? Are you changing your companies policies to keep this from happening in the future? In our particular situation, we challenged our participants to “Make lemonade from lemons” and harnessed the hashtag #makelemonade. Did that inspire everyone? No, but many chose to embrace it and shared photos and posts with others. People love to do what everyone else is doing so if they see others with a positive attitude, it influences them also.
Reply to as many as possible in a timely manner.
There is nothing worse than asking a question and….crickets…. Especially in our world of instant reactiveness. Even if you do not have an answer to a question… try your best to reply.
“Unfortunately we do not have an answer to your question at this time. We are working on it.”
“I’m sorry. Let us figure a few things out and we should have an answer soon.”
“Let us get through the day/weekend/week and we will know more. I’m sorry.”
Replying humanizes your company even if you do not have an answer.
Know that no matter what, not everyone will be nice.
There will always be those that you can never make happy. Know that going in. Appreciate the ones that are supportive during the time. Take a deep breath and do the next right thing in front of you.
Take a deep breath. This too shall pass. While there is no perfect formula, we hope these tips help you feel more prepared in handling your business crisis on social media.