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Handling PR Snafus on Social Media
By: Jennifer Stack
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Community managers: Judgment Day is here! Dust off your PR skills and wrangle up your best crisis management faces! Social slip-ups are happening left, right, and center; between fake account brand champions and inappropriate piggybacking of Twitter trending, the community management industry has been in the spotlight for the mistakes they have or could potentially make. This begs the question: What to do when blunders are occur on social media?

Best practices and crisis plans are being reassessed, adapted, or formed for the first time as a result of these evolving hot-list issues. Best practices are being put through the ringer; some are questioned and challenged, while others are defended. The reality is that while there may be a guideline for best practices, there are no hard and fast solutions to every potential social media snafu that could arise, as some emerge from ignorance of a recent event or association while others are technical — mistaken account login, accidental spelling error, or mistaken visual posting. One end of the spectrum rationalizes that it is more human and empathetic for a brand to make mistakes from time to time; people are more willing to connect with a brand that can make, admit, and stand behind a mistake rather than the one who "hides" all errors. The other end of the community management spectrum considers legal ramifications and a reverse halo effect in terms of brand trust.  

The choices are indefinite and making the best one is always situational. Some argue that it is better to leave your mistakes visible or to ignore them completely, while others advise those guilty of social media grievances to admit that an error has occurred, own it and its repercussions, and move on (with key lessons learned).

The best strategy will always be a proactive defense; a diligence that allows you to identify opportunities for mishaps to occur and safeguard against them. This is not to encourage all community managers to be risk-adverse but rather consistently conduct risk assessment in order to ensure an optimally minimized risk zone.

The second-best strategy will always be contextual to the type of gaffe that occurred, the brand’s persona and reputation, and their own relationship with their key target demographics. Some consumers are so loyal that they don’t care about a mistake, while some brands have cornered the market and thus have no competition regardless of any misgivings they create.

At the end of the day, as with any PR or Crisis Management guide, there is no hard and firm answer until all the cards are on the table. It's all relative.

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About the Author
Jennifer Stack is a Social Media Strategist at a digital advertising agency. She was a 2011 Notable.ca YP Social Media Finalist. International Marketing Communication, MA. International Marketing Strategy, MSc. LinkedIn + Twitter.
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