How to handle a social media crisis? Here’s the Maersk Line approach (in six bullet points).

maersk norwichIn Maersk Line we have a rather relaxed approach to the concept of “social media crisis”. Not that we don’t take it serious. But when analysing why brands end up in all sorts of trouble we’re seeing the same issue again and again.

In short: When companies are not being truthful about who they are, and are instead trying to paint a skewed or even false picture, they basically ask for it.

To boil it down to a few points, the following is our recipe for handling potential crises that may erupt within social media:

  1. Be good. If the company has all the best intentions, all the time, there should be no problem. If our intentions are good or just understandable, then we will always be able to explain why we did what we did – and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it.
  2. Be honest. We must never cover up things. If we did something wrong we should speak openly about it. We’re not perfect. And showing imperfection is actually the best way to build trust. From a communication perspective this is about not shying away from self-criticism and sharing the negative news.
  3. Listen and respond – when relevant. We of course monitor what’s being said about us online, both when it’s addressing us directly and when people are just writing about us. Sometimes, when a response is necessary or deserved, we’ll respond. But not always. We don’t want to spend all our time responding to random comments.
  4. Be human. Be good-humoured. Be friendly. And be respectful. If people are addressing an important issue, then track it down internally, find the person who really knows about it and get back with the answer ASAP.
  5. Provide a pressure relief valve. Give aggrieved customers a dedicated place to complain, e.g. a forum, a blog post or even a Facebook post. Direct them to an “official” place to sound off. It keeps the complaining more organized, and makes sure that most of it happens in a venue we control.
  6. Take it one at the time. A handbook is not the way to go, as you can tell from e.g. the famous O2 example. When there’s an issue that needs extra attention, we discuss it internally and respond accordingly. We learn from that, but it should never become automated. If it does, then that’s the next social media crisis right there.

And that’s it. It’s probably not a bullet-proof approach. But then, what is?