Doing public relations in times of stability is one thing, but what do you do when something goes wrong?
Crisis communication as a subset of public relations is a fairly young practice in Vietnam. Just as companies and PR firms were beginning to learn out how to handle themselves in a crisis – using press conferences and official media statements – the rise of social media has left them scrambling, with some attempting to embrace social media while others stick to what they know. With that in mind, here are some facts that should encourage them to make the change.
1. Social media is more popular here
Vietnam is one of the fastest growing countries for social media usage, with over 57 million social media users, and 81% of young people getting news from social media. Moreover, unlike some countries, Vietnamese don’t have a particularly high level of trust in traditional media. Some even trust social media more, believing it to reflect less filtered interests. All this means that a social media response will gain a wider audience than in traditional media, and – if properly handled – companies won’t lose any trust because of it.
2. Stakeholders prefer a social media response
People are more likely to feel sympathy for a company and accept their crisis response if it is seen as sincere and personal. Because social media is perceived as a more direct form of engagement than traditional media, using it to address issues makes the company seem more caring, concerned, and committed to the interests of its stakeholders. This will give stakeholders a more positive impression during and after the crisis.
3. Social media is faster
One of the main reasons people use social media is that it tends to get information out faster than traditional media sources. This is especially true in the instance of a crisis, when stakeholders are hungry to learn more about the incident. Companies are now expected to respond to a growing crisis faster than, and may be criticized if they don’t, which usually means making a statement directly on social media. Failure to do so can mean letting the crisis escalate faster than it can be controlled.
4. Crises that begin on social media should end there
Bringing a crisis that’s based on one platform to another in an attempt to end it is like trying to put out a wildfire by carrying flaming branches out of the forest: it does nothing to quell the problem, and only spreads it further. These days many crises start with posts on social media, so the wisest thing companies can do is be prepared to respond to them on the same platform. If they’re lucky, they may be able to isolate the fire and put it out before it spreads.
5. Social media can warn of a crisis before it happens
Speaking of fire, remember the saying “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire”? When a company has a significant presence on social media, stakeholders will often use that outlet to engage the company or get their attention. By taking notice of and responding to complaints and trends in social media commentary, companies can often address a potential crisis before it really gets going.
With all this in mind, why don’t more companies turn to social media in times of crisis? That will be the topic of our next article.
By: Clāra Ly-Le, Managing Director of EloQ Communications (formerly Vero IMC Vietnam). Clāra is a senior public relations consultant who has been involved in multiple national and regional PR campaigns in Vietnam. She is also a PhD candidate at Bond University, Australia. Her research interests include crisis management, intercultural communication, and new media communication.
(X-posted on Clāra’s blog)