April 21st, 2009 by Mo

Original Article by David Nelles

There it goes; Twitter has become a substantially relevant PR tool. Hence, within only few months a number of brands have experienced, how fast a crisis can spread – thanks to this channel of the 140 characters. The American painkillers Motrin had encountered the anger and resentment of few well networked moms. The E-Commerce Gigant Amazon had to experience a hacker attack over Easter, which erased literature offers regarding gay and lesbian themes. And last but not least, the Domino’s pizza delivery service has its share of experience in regard to the short distasteful video of two employees on YouTube. The three cases show that even in the U.S Twitter has definitely become more and more relevant for company’s communication. Yet, how could these three companies avoid the big disaster to their reputation before it even started? Maybe these three tips below can help a little:

Only listening does not suffice

Important is also knowing, who talks about the brand in Twitter, and how badly he/she speaks about the brand and the corresponding company. Therefore, the following few priorities should stand out in foreground:

Priority No. 1 has to be the people who make up the majority of your brand’s customers. And that will be the question for Domino’s as it plots the best plan of response: The pizza chain needs to know not only how many people saw the video but who those people are and how likely they are to be current customers.

A monitoring is not only a quantitative analysis of the relevant brands mentions, but it’s also about the qualitative analysis like the segmentation and the creation of user’s typologies. Only a qualitative analysis ensures an effective potential crisis analysis. Thereby, it’s not only decisive, how often a tweet or retweet comes out but it’s also important, whether the tweet fits into my target group or not.

Don’t hide uncertainty – Transparency is a must

Companies should engage themselves in the discussions with quick and fast manner towards the emerging crisis in Twitter&Co. even if the companies do not actually know, what is happening, just like in the case with Amazon deleting the whole product groups. A short PR statement would only ignite more fire to the unfavorable situation. A transparent answer in Amazon’s case would be to inform users that the mistakes are not known yet and people in charged are doing everything in their power to resolve the problems. Through this kind of behavior, one shows that critical voices in Twitter are being taken seriously and that one does react to the voiced sentiments. This kind of strategy can smooth the situation and best example for it: the action taken by Scott Monty after a notice of one of the Ford fan’s communities:

Monty logged onto Twitter and asked people to hold off: there was “more to the story.” That slowed down commentary. A little later he added, there was counterfeiting of Ford trademark properties involved. That froze the conversation and bought him some time.
“Some time,” in a PR crisis a few years ago used to translate into about four days. Times change. Monty figured he had bought Ford a few hours.

The above example show that through the announcement of the brand alone of something is being done in respect to the circumstances can definitely slow the spread of crisis significantly down.

Exercise precautions and build your own Twitter community

This basic doesn’t only apply for Twitter but it applies as well for the whole area of social media. In case of a crisis, a strong brand community can be a life insurance for the brand.

Strong, emotional brands that have built up years of consumer goodwill seem to be more insulated from long-term hurt. Few consumers judged much-loved Whole Foods when its CEO was caught posting comments on financial sites under a fake name. Another consumer darling, JetBlue, has recovered valiantly from its Valentine’s Day massacre, which left passengers stranded on board on a runway for eight hours.

It appears quite advantageous for brands alone, out of the perspectives of crisis prevention to build a strong community around its brand. An authentic and long lasting dialog with users, and tying customers emotionally to the brand will make sustainable damage of brand reputation very unlikely. Furthermore, a big brand community i.e. a big Twitter followers guarantees a real sense of hearing in the target group of user generated channels. At least, Domino’s Pizza now understood how essential own Twitter community can be.

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