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The Ultimate Cheat Sheet On Crisis Communication

I’ve wanted to write this post for over a month now, so here it finally is! After some reflection and collecting my thoughts, I’ve put together the ultimate cheat sheet on crisis communication – huzzah!

The reason I want to give you this guide is because I recently was submerged (and I say ‘submerged’ because I was quite literally drowning) in a crisis communication & social media disaster for 3 of the brands I manage. To give you context, I’m currently responsible for the social strategy & everything related to social for 5 e-commerce brands. During last November and December (our busy season), it became apparent that our Customer Support team was severely understaffed.

What did the angry customers do? As predicted, they went to social media.

With no training or help, I quickly found myself playing the role of Customer Support –  trying desperately to help these people find where their orders were. After working 15, 16, and even 17 hour days, the crisis finally slowed down Christmas Day.




After reflecting on the situation, I realized the key elements to avoiding situations like this in the future.

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Crisis Communication

  1. Response time – If a customer has posted a complaint on social media, address it quickly and try to give them an avenue where Support can help them directly. You don’t want to fall into the hole of trying to solve a customer’s problem when you don’t even have the right tools to do so, but you do want to address the issue quickly.
  2. Integrate your software – Make sure your Support team has tools to integrate with Facebook, Twitter, and any other location where customers might make contact you. If you’re a strategist, it’s not your job to do support. Make sure that you, your boss, your team, and support are all aware of a simple integration that could make everyone’s life easier.
  3. Nail down your message – This seems like a no-brainer, but it is absolutely critical. Figure out how you will address the situation both in the present moment, as well as after the situation has calmed. Be apologetic, be understanding and be factual. After the crisis is in a manageable point, determine what your message will be to customers and how you will communicate this.
  4. Take responsibility for what happened – People want to hear you’re sorry. And, if you were wrong, then just apologize, offer a discount, refund their order – do whatever you can do to save the customer. Remember: the customer relationship is sacred, so treat it that way! You don’t just need different customers…. these people already care about your products!
  5. DON’T DELETE! I repeat…. Don’t delete! One of the biggest pitfalls we had was that we started deleting users messages after they started ranting on our wall….. Big, BIG mistake. People were coming to our social media channels as a source for answers since they had waited for hours on the phone, sent multiple emails with no answer, and still hadn’t received their product. Sure, you can delete someone’s comment, but what are you really doing? You’re just pissing them off more. Don’t do that. Ever.
  6. Put all social media and any other promotional marketing on hold until the issue is resolved. Solve your problem, then go back to your normal marketing activities.

The main thing that you must always remember is to protect your brand. The minute that your brand name is tarnished, it becomes very difficult to win the loyalty and trust of your customers.

So what did we do? To “make things right”, we set up an Apology Campaign to be sent after the holiday debacle… and it still hasn’t been sent to customers.

So, yeah. Then there’s that.

At any rate, I hope this cheat sheet helps. I sure could have used it a few months ago amid the chaos. Click here for more marketing tips.


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