One July a couple years ago, my husband and I went on a road trip. It was short – about 4 hours one way. Since both of us are very casual travelers, we took a side trip and did other things to make it fun.
Until the car broke down.
Sitting in the middle of the rural Midwest in sweltering heat with a dead car, it would have been easy to panic. Instead, we kept each other calm, called for help, secured a rental, and carried on with our trip. That experience taught me a lot about what to do when a crisis hits.
Business is the same. Just like a vehicle, our best-laid plans sometimes break down. A staffer may send an offensive tweet on the company account, forgetting it’s not his own. A change in policy or products may lead to an army of angry customers commenting on your client’s Facebook page. No matter the case, there are three steps that can take you from being broken down and put your client’s company back on the road to success.
1) Don’t Panic. Panic is one of those responses that can serve humanity well in life-threatening situations, but often hinders more than it helps. When your client’s Facebook page is blowing up or the media picks up a mistaken tweet, it can be easy to panic and hide. Instead, try to stay calm and pull the content team together. Just as my husband and I helped each other stay level, the team can lean on each other and contribute ideas and solutions.
2) Act Immediately. Social media and content situations cannot wait while four levels of management approve action. If management must be involved, make sure you include them in the team huddle in Step 1. In general, a social media response should be made within 24 hours of the breakdown. This response must also be coordinated with other media responses, if any mainstream media have picked up the story.
3) Be Human to Human. By this I mean realize that the people you are dealing with are human, and you can allow them to see that your client, the company, are also human. Sometimes a humble apology will go a long way. Sometimes acknowledging the true, honest pain of the customers will help smooth hurt feelings and help them understand a product or policy change. You must always remember that their customers are emotional beings, and often appropriate emotional responses help stem the tide of frustration.
4) Don’t Give Up. My husband told me that in his family, if a misfortune like this happened, they would have aborted the vacation and gone home. I thought that was really sad – they gave up the fun they could have had and allowed the difficult event to define the trip. We had a different plan – we rented a car and continued our vacation. Despite the trial, we had a good time. In the same way, make sure your client doesn’t see a single snafu as a reason to abort your client’s content marketing plan and return to ineffective marketing. Bad things happen from time to time, and not just to content plans. Make sure your client remembers the benefits they are gaining and stay on track.
My husband and I weren’t happy about the car breaking down. It added a lot of expense and headache to our trip. But despite that, we stayed calm, acted quickly, reminded ourselves of our humanity, and kept going. As a result, we had a good time and one little incident didn’t derail our trip. Make sure your client sees their inevitable speed bumps the same way. It’ll save them customers, keep their plans on track, and keep everyone happy in the long run.
(Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)