You may have heard of the “sushi terrorism” incidents in Japan, where a putrid youth licked soy sauce bottles and put them back on the conveyer belts at a sushi restaurant, which then triggered similar pranks in Japan. The sushi chain was badly affected by the incident through no fault of theirs. Fortunately, the culprits were later arrested. Through the ordeal, the sushi chain received the most rapport from their fans on social media. So, why is social media important in public relations especially in a crisis?
1. Don’t wait until a crisis strikes
Relationships are formed and forged over time. You cannot expect to rescue your business out of a crisis only when a crisis happens. That crisis will get even worse, since you are ill-prepared for it.
So, before crises happen, make sure your business has a crisis management and communication program in place. This program should cater to all manners of potential crises that may strike your business, from cybersecurity breaches, financial and business lapses, product recalls, human failures, and yes, even external threats like “sushi terrorism”. You need to have a team on call any moment to address crises as they happen, with prepared processes in place. Test your crisis management and communication program in scheduled and later unscheduled dry runs, to ensure they actually work. Work with external public relations experts to design and develop this program.
2. Make social media distinct and close to people
Social media is a distinct media compared to mainstream media, being social in nature. Mainstream media is more akin to broadcasting, where the news are distributed to audiences but does not necessarily engage the audiences. Any interaction with mainstream media is usually through a comments system or social media, both of which are auxiliary and extant to the media itself.
To quote a recent example, I was listening to a local Chinese radio station. A local actor and director was on the station recently, and was able to call out specific fans on social media by name and even remembered the specifics about some of them. It was no wonder the radio station is popular and its social media flourishing with high attendances during their live-streaming sessions alongside their radio programs, since the hosts endeared themselves to the fans as people.
3. Be real and warm
Too often, businesses create social media accounts purely to advertise their products, without caring about their audiences. I have seen some business leaders imposing on their marketing teams and even external agencies to push commercial content on social media. Social media is not the best platform for advertising, because as the name implies, it is meant to be social. And it is no wonder many commercial social media accounts dried up like prunes with little social and community interest or engagements.
So, what should businesses do? Like the radio host, be authentic and warm. Listen and observe your audiences. Interact with them as much as you can, as friends or families. How would you interact with your friends and families? Surely your circle of families and friends would not bother with your commercial pitches, but are interested in you and your life events. So, your social media should be as real and as warm as you can. Engage your employees, especially key functional spokespersons, to have authentic and real social media accounts to interact with prospects, customers, and communities.
Social media is a powerful tool if done right. It is very much a social ecosystem for you to nurture communities and friends. Use it wisely. Be prepared before crises strike. Be real and warm to your audiences. And, perhaps, if ever a crisis strikes, your business will be ready to fend off criticism and attacks, and be able to bounce back quickly and build even stronger communities and retain more business.