When Do You Respond to a PR Crisis on Social Media?

By   |   November 22nd, 2016   |   Reading time: 5 minutes Communications & PR, Digital Journalism

When your brand or client gets seemingly bad press, should you respond? Why looking at the social data might be your best first step. 

The saying goes ‘all press is good press’. But this isn’t necessarily true in the digital world, where a negative story can take on a life of its own and go global.

Social media crises happen all the time for PR agencies and brands. Even publishers have a brand to maintain, and may find themselves getting controversial responses to a story. These crises can be entirely incidental. Just look at the two candy brands that found themselves unexpectedly involved in the US presidential election this year — Skittles and Tic-Tacs.

The responses can have a positive effect or negative. Take our reactive marketing post, where a response from Star Wars on the idea of female armor went viral with positive comments. 

However, sometimes responding to a controversy can spur it on further. If a controversial story isn’t driving significant views or interactions, it may be preferential to ignore it and let it fizzle out. An official response can add fuel to the fire and propel the controversy into the spotlight.

So when should you respond or not respond to an unfolding potential crisis? Let’s use social listening and data to determine an answer.

Track the Story

Before you consider responding to a story, it’s integral that you check what the activity on that story is. Are tons of people talking about it, sharing it and interacting with it? Is it likely to get picked up by other outlets?

We can take a look at individual stories through NewsWhip Spike to see if engagements on a story are trending up or down.

Coca Cola NewsWhip Spike Christmas

This story about Coca Cola’s holiday marketing attracted some criticism in press coverage. But if we look closely, we can see that the article hasn’t driven that many engagements. We can also take a look at whether there are related stories, and if they’re driving significant attention.

Coca Cola Xmas Related stories

These stories aren’t driving significant engagement either. But it’s one thing to look at them now, and another to estimate how much activity they will drive.

With Spike’s predicted interactions view, we can take a look at the predicted number of engagements an article will drive. Let’s take a look at a different story.

NBC fake news

NBC News might want to consider responding to this bad press article, based on the predicted interactions in the next four hours. While currently in this snapshot, there are 1,500 Facebook interactions, Spike’s algorithm has the story predicted to reach 8,800 Facebook engagements.

Is Anyone Influential Talking About the Article?

A story’s reach can multiply enormously, based on the people who are sharing it out. Thought leaders or those with substantial social media followings can alter the trajectory of a story if they share it out.

We can stay in Story View to check if there’s anyone involved in amplifying the story, and who exactly they are.

Influencers in SpikeBy clicking into the influencer nodes on the activity graph, we can see that in the above example that Senator Bernie Sanders shared this story on Facebook, no doubt adding to its reach.

These influencer nodes allow us to clearly see whether a story is organically getting a lot of traction or whether it’s particularly influential pages that have driven that engagement. From there, we can look at the actual pages or tweets to see exactly how people are reacting.

Let’s Go Native

It can be insightful to go beyond the web content. Let’s find the native posts around this story on Facebook or the tweets themselves. Are the comments on the native content positive or negative?

What seems like a negative story (or positive story) might be spun the other way by the actual readers. Going into the comments allows you to qualify that sentiment.

homeopathic spike newswhip

If you’re a homeopathic brand, the amount of interactions on this article might scare you about the impact on your brand. Let’s dive in a little deeper, try to get a gauge on what people are feeling around this news.

homeopathic spike newswhip influencers

We can see the top influencer here has driven over 104,000 Facebook engagements for the article. If we click into that actual post, we can break down the shares, comments, and likes/reactions being driven.

Looking into the comments, we can see not everyone agrees with this ruling, or at least, that they don’t view it as especially favorable toward big pharmaceutical companies either. Here’s a sampling of some of the comments that show this article may not have an entirely negative impact.

comments homeopathic

While the quantitive data can reveal quite a lot in terms of buzz and activity, it’s worth going into the individual reactions to gauge how people are really feeling.

What to Remember

There are many factors that go into whether it’s worth responding to bad press. Instead of making an impulsive decision, go into the data to make sure that the article in question merits a response. Let’s review what to keep in mind:

  1. Track the story: is there significant engagement? Is that engagement building or looking like it may taper off? Are there related stories?
  2. Identify influencers: is this article being shared by people or publications with substantial followings on social media?
  3. Check the native content: what are people actually saying in the comments on this article? What are they saying on Twitter? Are the Facebook reactions negative or positive?

By using social data, you have a clearer picture of the impact of a negative article. Then you can decide with full confidence how to proceed.

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