How do you turn a negative into a social media positive?
Here in the UK this winter we’ve seen the impact that unexpected events can have on businesses – the floods caused by Storms Desmond, Eva and Frank affected large and small businesses alike – shops, charities, schools, tourist attractions…
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that however well we manage our businesses, bad things can happen. It’s how we deal with those things that can make a huge difference in the long term, and an important part of that is communication.
As well as the physical and financial aspects of this recovery process, it’s also worth thinking about how you’ll talk to people about what’s happened. There can sometimes be an opportunity to widen your reach in the aftermath.
I’m not talking about cashing in on a tragedy here, but simply making the most of a bad situation. You can use your communication channels to get a message out about your problems, or to deal with issues that people bring to you.
To show how this can work in reality, I want to show you a few examples of companies and charities who have been able to turn around a negative situation.
Cecil the Lion
You may remember the story of Cecil the lion, who was shot and killed in a national park in Zimbabwe last year. As the story developed, it turned out that Cecil was being tracked as part of wildlife conservation efforts by a team of researchers at Oxford University.
The University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit has been accepting donations for many years, but in the wake of Cecil’s death they were brought to the attention of a wider audience. The team made good use of this exposure to tell the story of Cecil’s involvement in their work, and explain how they were planning to expand into wider areas in neighbouring countries.
— Oxford University (@UniofOxford) July 30, 2015
Following this, WildCRU found themselves inundated with donations from around the world, receiving over £750,000 in the wake of Cecil’s death. From an initially tragic event, the conservation efforts will be able to continue for a long time.
West End Food Bank donations
This story is on a more local level to us at Utterly Content. In December a food bank charity in Newcastle was targeted by thieves, who stole toys that had been donated as Christmas presents for primary school children in the area.
The story immediately resulted in a swelling of support from the community. As well as donations of food and replacement toys, local companies donated cash, medical supplies, and a new security system.
— ITV News Tyne Tees (@itvtynetees) December 10, 2015
In this instance the charity’s spokespeople made appearances on traditional media – newspapers and radio – to express their gratitude for the support they were receiving, and to let people know how to make their own donations. The message was spread by the public themselves on social media, resulting in even more donations from people around the world.
Again, an unforeseen event that started with the actions of unknown criminals resulted in exposure for the charity and greater understanding of the issues they face.
My final example is from a much larger organisation – O2. Back in July 2012, O2 suffered a network failure which left the vast majority of its customers without service for several hours.
While its engineers worked to find a solution to the problem, the company’s customer service staff were engaging with complaints and comments on social media, apologising and explaining the situation to everyone who got in touch.
This isn’t a particularly unusual approach for large companies, but where O2 succeeded was in responding to almost every Twitter comment, even those which were offensive and could normally be safely ignored. The addition of a light-hearted tone of voice meant that the O2 staff running the account were praised for their dedication and humour in a difficult situation.
@MrJeb Um… you're welcome, we think. But if your mum asks, we'll totally deny this tweet.
— O2 in the UK (@O2) July 12, 2012
@Beckyyyy123 If it's a giant, Jaffa Cake, I'm in.
— O2 in the UK (@O2) July 12, 2012
By the time the technical difficulties were resolved, the Twitter team’s approach had been used to reinforce O2’s stated commitment to good customer service.
Making the most of a tricky situation depends on being able to respond quickly. When bad things happen, it can be easy to focus on dealing with the issues and not thinking about your communications – but taking that little bit of time to consider your public response can pay dividends in the long run.
If you want to talk about preparing your communications for unexpected events, just get in touch.