How Brands Should Respond To A Crisis On Social Media

How Brands Should Respond To A Crisis On Social Media

September 22, 2022

Responding to world crises can be challenging and stressful, especially for brands living on social. But, by taking some time and following some basic principles, you can navigate your way through the storm and out the other side.

Like many big or unexpected events, news of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II set social media alight. The Royal Family broke the news of the Queen’s passing on their own social media channels, marking a fundamental change in the way news of this kind is announced. Focus quickly shifted to how brands should respond. One prescient tweeter reminded their followers who work in social media to ‘check your scheduled tweets’, in a nod to the online gaffes that would inevitably roll in. And roll in they did. First came the unplanned gaffes, the unfortunately timed scheduled content that would have been perfectly fine on any other day. Canada’s Drag Race tweeted this right after news of the Queen’s death was announced:

Meanwhile, other brands put out intentional responses to the news and just got it seriously wrong. Crossfit UK invited their Instagram followers to try a ‘Queen Elizabeth II’ workout, which included 70 jumping lunges (one for every year she had been on the throne) before a ‘one minute rest in silence.’ One user called the post ‘unhinged’ and stories about the gaffe made it into the national news.

So how should brands and social media managers navigate through an unexpected crisis? What can we do to avoid making the same kinds of mistakes as Canada’s Drag Race or Crossfit UK?

Don’t panic, don’t rush

The most important thing to remember when dealing with a crisis is: don’t panic, and don’t rush. Even in the most stressful situations there is rarely a need to respond instantly. Take the time to pause, assess what’s going on, and discuss as a team what to do. 

It’s often a good idea to pause all content while decisions are being made, even if your scheduled posts seem fine. They can always be posted later after you have had a chance to make sure they’re all ok. 

Stay consistent in your brand voice

In these times of crisis, staying consistent to the basic principles of your brand is a good approach. High-pressure crisis situations are not the time for big departures from what your followers have come to expect. They’re not a great time to try something new and adventurous. Stick to what you know – although, if your brand voice is light-hearted and humorous, you might want to be particularly careful. 

Brief your community management team

There is no one right way to respond to a crisis. While it’s important to be aware of what others are doing, it’s more important to respond in a way that feels appropriate and authentic for your brand and your audiences. We’ve seen brands respond in a variety of ways to the passing of the Queen. Some changed their icons to black and white and stopped posting for 10 days. Others posted a tribute and then resumed their regular schedules. Some said nothing at all.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure to tighten up your community management. Brief your team on how to deal with user responses, whether they’re positive or negative. Remember, you can’t please everyone. While you may have to hold firm against criticism, you also need to be ready to delete or apologise if you receive backlash.

Responding to unexpected crises can be real test for brands and their social teams. Although it can be frustrating to pause long-term plans that are often months in the making, sticking to these basic principles can help you nail your social media response and build consumer trust in your brand.