5 Tips (+1 Bonus) for Addressing a Crisis

Getting ahead of a crisis might mean that you’re the first to publicize it. When a Southwest Airlines flight to LaGuardia Airport in New York skidded on the runway and landed nose first, the airline posted news of the accident on Twitter and Facebook within minutes, promising updates.

Within minutes, they received thank yous for their openness. If a crisis is going to come out either way, and you already know about it, why not get credit for having the integrity to bring it to the public’s attention? Southwest Airlines was first to report the story and was commended for getting ahead of the crisis.

Which leads us to the first tip:

1. Use Your Communication Channels. During a crisis, communicate with your audience using the same channels you always do. Centralizing all relevant information on your website even though your audience is used to hearing from you on Twitter or YouTube will inevitably leave them hanging and dissatisfied with how you handled things.

2. Never Lose Sight of Your Goals. As things escalate, get yourself prepared to move fast. One of the first steps is to know who you’re talking to and how to best reach them.

Keep in mind that you’ll be measured on:

  • Speed: Even in the best of times, people want fast results. Acknowledge the problem quickly and deliver updates as you address it.
  • Transparency: It’s getting harder and harder to keep secrets. Getting ahead of a crisis means sharing what you know and being open about your commitment to a solution.
  • Relatability: You will also be judged by how easy you make it for people to find and understand what they want to know. A media intelligence tool will indicate if your message is sticking (reach), how people feel about it (sentiment), and if it’s being amplified (engagement). 

3. Know Your Audience. That said, different people care about different things. Customize the message and channels you use to reach each stakeholder group.

4. Get Your Message Heard. Media intelligence also allows you to find the best ways to amplify your message. Earned, owned, and paid media all play a unique role in making yourself heard:

  • Earned media: Go to your social media channels to communicate directly to your followers. If your message affects them, you can count on them sharing it with their community. At this point journalists may be paying attention to these channels too. If your message resonates, you’ll get more positive earned media through them.
  • Owned media: Your website and emails are both great ways to provide information. Make sure that the scale of the crisis is reflected by the prominence you give to it on your site. Ask yourself if it merits a website banner or just a mention on your company news page.
  • Paid media: On social, you can consider whether to replace scheduled paid media (like sponsored posts on Twitter) and use those slots to address the crisis. Paid media can help you target your crisis communications to the people who are most affected or most vocal in their criticisms.

What to Look For

  • Customers: Customers are usually the most directly affected by a crisis. Understanding to what extent the crisis has negatively impacted them and how many customers are unhappy will help you in your resolution. Investors A crisis can have a negative impact on your company’s stock price. Find out how the financial community is reacting, taking this into consideration when you communicate with investors.
  • Employees: Employees act as representatives or brand ambassadors for your company. It’s important to provide them with corporate-approved messaging and monitor their public-facing communication regarding the crisis.
  • Influencers: Influencer has come to designate bloggers, social celebrities, analysts, and journalists. Among the first two, some might be advocates for your company and some detractors.

Media intelligence lets you know who is likely to be on your side.

5. Measure Your Impact as You Go. When addressing a crisis, don’t forget to gauge how your updates are being received. A media intelligence platform enables you to track how people are responding and how sentiment is shifting. When used well, media intelligence provides even more granular views. As your crisis
 takes hold both in social media and in the press,
 you can use your media intelligence platform to 
compare by keyword and sentiment what’s being
 said on social vs. the press vs. other key players who are trying to shape the message (for instance, your competitors or government officials). Doing so can help you target your communications and customize them further by channel and audience.

Bonus: Know When to Walk Away. There is no such thing as shutting down a crisis that’s being played out on Twitter or Facebook. As we’ve seen, your audience will demand that you engage in dialogue. Blocking them from the outset from posting to your feeds will only drive them to others, where they’ll be sure to comment on your strong-arming tactics. But it’s also important to know when to leave the conversation. If you’ve made all the points you can make, but there is still a vocal minority of detractors who are saying the same thing over and over again, any response you give them will just add fuel to the fire. Stepping away removes the target and gives them less to react to. Earned, owned, and paid media each play a unique role in making yourself heard during a crisis.

The best way to deal with a crisis is to prepare well before one hits. These five tips from our free downloadable ebook, Media Intelligence for Crisis Communications, will start you down the path. Get the full ebook and make sure you have the resources you need, in anticipation of not needing them. (But being ready, in case you do.)

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Social Media Recap: September 2016

Twitter drops and gives you 23 (extra characters)

Loosen your ties and lean back in your chairs, PR pros. Twitter is giving you more room for your message!

In a long-awaited announcement this week, Twitter revealed its revised character limits. From now on (well, at least until the next change) your brand’s news isn’t penalized by additional multimedia content. Until now, Twitter restricted message length if your update had a photo, video, GIF, or poll. As of September 19th, those multimedia items don’t count against your update’s length. This is big news for people who want to be eloquent and clear in their Twitter content, like PR pros working on behalf of clients.

What can you do with that extra PR real estate? Optimize content for the internet’s hunger for video, for starters. Create a series of Twitter Moments to drive your brand story. Or simply take the space that used to be “stolen” by visual assets and use them to give your tweets solid context. Now that you have room to stretch out, here are tips to help your visual content resonate: 


Did you know that videos online are watched most often without sound? In fact, a study found that on Facebook, 85% of videos are watched on mute. Facebook is addressing this by offering automatic closed captioning (with some hysterical results). Twitter hasn’t gone that far, yet, but keeping in mind where people are watching your brand news (at work, on the sly) you can help by adding closed caption text to each frame.


In-line photos and GIFs are included in the new updates, which is great news for PR pros. The Twitterverse loves a good infographic, funny GIF, great chart, or shareable quote. Now you don’t have to choose between good grammar or uploading a helpful, interesting imageyou can have both.


“What is a “Moment”? It’s a curated feed of current happenings around an event, theme or topic on Twitter. It can be based around a trending topic, event, or newsworthy update. Now, Twitter is giving creators the ability to curate Moments that arise around their shared content, provided there is enough engagement. You’ll be able to check a box and choose which tweets about your content will go in your Moment. For PR pros this gives you the ability to tell your brand story in real-time while your content is being shared. Visual content like the video, GIFs, and images we’ve talked about, tends to get preferential curation in Moments. 

Twitter Live

This feature, launched this summer, allows Twitter to work with brand partners (first up, the NFL) to offer live-streaming during their events. What makes this a killer feature, especially in light of the expanded space for visual content, is the way this service pulls in live Tweets during events. Savvy advertisers, viewers, and PR pros can now be part of the real-time conversation around a video event. By creating relevant GIFs or images to share during these events, you can gain more traction for your clients. It’s a promising new direction for Twitter (and for you)!

What didn’t change

What didn’t change is the uselessness of PDFs. Some PR pros (or more likely, some risk-averse clients) still want to upload PDFs to Twitter. So many people are now viewing Twitter (and Facebook, as well as other social platforms) via mobile devices. Journalists don’t want to read a PDF on the small screen of their phone or tablet, or a standard press release with no images or videos to entertain them on their commute. Instead, create an interactive press release. (If you have a budget, Twitter Cards are great for this purpose. They let you add lead conversion and purchase options right in the Twitter feed!)

What might change

Twitter has hinted that user handles and links might not count against the post length limit in the near future. You can bet that if this comes to fruition they will put guardrails on them to prevent @ and link spam. Additionally, Twitter has been slowly adding features to help users fight harassment. These features can also be used to mute brand messages, so be useful or entertaining at all times to ensure people keep seeing your messages in their feeds!

5 Takeaways

  • Add subtitles to your videos to increase your percentage watched
  • Use helpful images, like infographics, to retain user attention and gain user trust
  • Use humor, such as a GIF, to surprise or delight your followers
  • Consider paying for Twitter Ads like Twitter Cards to get measurable ROI on your news
  • Curate a Moment of shareable images and relevant community content, to increase your brand reach


This is the first installment in our new monthly series about the social media platforms that we utilize in our work as PR and marketing professionals. Thanks for reading Social Media Recap: September 2016 edition.

Sidekick 10/16-10/22

Let’s do the time warp again! The Rocky Horror Picture Show sashays back to live television this week, as does Project Runway, Jane The Virgin, and the next presidential debate. So turn on the tube and settle in, because social media is about to get colorful. Stay ahead of the discussion with a jump to the left, a step to the right, and signing up to receive Social Sidekick each week straight to your inbox. 


Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Children’s Health Month, Lupus Awareness Month, National Diabetes Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Pizza Month, Fair Trade Month, Cookie Month, Vegetarian Month

International Dinosaur Month, Adopt a Shelter Dog Month

Sunday, October 16

World Food Day, Liqueur Day, Steve Jobs Day, Department Store Day, Dictionary Day

#SundayFunday, #SelfieSunday, #Sinday

Oscar Wilde, John Mayer, Angela Lansbury, Tim Robbins, Suzanne Somers, Nico  

The Durrells in Corfu (PBS, 8 PM), Killing Reagan (Nat Geo, 9 PM), Eyewitness (USA, 10 PM)

Monday, October 17

First Day of Sukkot, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Boss’ Day, Pasta Day, Wear Something Gaudy Day, Mulligan Day, Clean Your Virtual Desktop Day, Spreadsheet Day,

#ManCrushMonday or #MCM, #MondayBlues, #MotivationMonday, #MarketingMonday, #MeatlessMonday

Eminem, Rita Hayworth, Wyclef Jean, Ziggy Marley, Felicity Jones

Jane the Virgin (The CW, 9 PM), The Odd Couple (CBS, 9:30 PM)

Tuesday, October 18

Alaska Day, Chocolate Cupcake Day, No Beard Day

#TransformationTuesday or #TT, #TravelTuesday, #TongueOutTuesday, #Tunesday

Zac Efron, Ne-Yo, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Berry, Lindsay Vonn, Freida Pinto, Esperanza Spalding

Wednesday, October 19

Global Dignity Day, Evaluate Your Life Day, Seafood Bisque Day

#WomanCrushWednesday or #WCW, #WayBackWednesday or #WBW, #WineWednesday, #WellnessWednesday, #HumpDay, #WisdomWednesday

John Lithgow, Jon Favreau, Chris Kattan, Gillian Jacobs, Trey Parker

Chance (Hulu)

CMT Artists of the Year (CMT, 8 PM), Presidential Debate (Various, 9 PM ET)

Thursday, October 20

Conflict Resolution Day, Get Smart About Credit Day, Information Overload Day, Waiters’ Day, International Sloth Day, Suspenders Day, Brandied Fruit Day,

#TBT or #ThrowbackThursday, #Thursdate, #ThoughtfulThursday, #ThirstyThursday, #ThankfulThursday

Snoop Dog, Krasinski, Viggo Mortensen, Tom Petty, Bela Lugosi

Beck, [Title TBA]; Bon Jovi, “This House Is Not For Sale”; Crocodiles, “Dreamless”; David Crosby, “Lighthouse”; Hooton Tennis Club, “Big Box of Chocolates”; Jimmy Eat World, “Integrity Blues”; John K. Samson, “Winter Wheat”; Korn, “The Serenity of Suffering”; Lady Gaga, “Joanne”; Syd Arthur, “Apricity”; The Pretenders, “Alone”; Various Artists, “Lazarus: Original Cast Recording” [With 3 unreleased David Bowie songs]

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again (Fox, 8 PM), Chopped: Beat Bobby Flay (Food, 9 PM) Project Runway: Fashion Startup (Lifetime, 10:30 PM)

Friday, October 21

Back to the Future Day, Apple Day, Pumpkin Cheesecake Day, Caramel Apples Day, Count Your Buttons Day, Reptile Awareness Day

#FollowFriday or #FF, #FlashbackFriday or #FBF, #FridayFeeling, #FriYay, #FridayReads

Kim Kardashian, Amber Rose, Carrie Fisher, Dizzy Gillespie, Alfred Nobel, Benjamin Netanyahu

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Keeping Up with the Joneses, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween, 31   

Black Mirror (Netflix), Joe Rogan: Triggered (Netflix), Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (CW, 9 PM), Hamilton’s America (PBS, 9 PM), One & Done (Showtime, 9 PM), The Vampire Diaries (CW, 8 PM)

Saturday, October 22

Caps Lock Day, Nut Day, Smart Is Cool Day, Make a Difference Day, International Stuttering Awareness Day

#Caturday, #SexySaturday

Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Shaggy, Zac Hanson, Franz Liszt  

Death of a Vegas Showgirl (Lifetime, 8 PM), Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (BBC America, 9 PM)


Parton Me: 10 Social Media Lessons to Learn from Dolly

Sublime lyrics and bedazzled jackets aren’t the only things sharp about Dolly Parton. The Tennessee songbird is every bit as savvy a businesswoman as she is a legendary performer—and an actor, amusement park developer, dinner show theater owner, and film/television company mogul. Despite now being a “lady of a certain age,” Dolly boasts a social media following that many younger stars would envy, with more than 4.1 million Twitter followers, 3.7 million Facebook fans, 355k followers on Instagram, more than 22K subscribers to her official YouTube channel, and a grasp on the use of emojis:

What else can the self-proclaimed “Backwoods Barbie” teach us about social media, content marketing, and (of course) life in general? We rounded up a few favorites for y’all.

Remember Your Roots

The fourth of 11 surviving children, Parton was born and raised in the Tennessee Smoky Mountains to a sharecropper family so poor they couldn’t afford to pay the doctor who delivered her. Her father instead gave the doctor a sack of cornmeal, leading to Parton’s running joke that she’s been “making dough ever since.” Dolly’s unwavering gratitude for her real rags-to-riches story seeps into everything she does—including her songs and social media. Although your brand’s roots may not be quite so humble, every company started somewhere. No matter how large your organization may be now, consider incorporating your brand’s origin story into your social content—even if it’s just a #TBT post—to humanize and make your brand relatable. Also, remember to give regular social media shoutouts to coworkers and collaborators who built your organization into what it is today. This also means engaging with your fans on social media early and often. Giving credit where credit is due is a kind and humble way to give back and goes a long way towards creating goodwill toward your brand.

Prepare for the Worst, but Hope for the Best

Any career as long and storied as Dolly’s has run into a few bumps along the way. There’s never enough time to come up with a plan after an issue arises on social, so even if a crisis seems unlikely, it is important (as Dolly says) to prepare for the worst. Collaborate with your PR team to create a contingency plan before disaster strikes. For more tips on this, check out our webinar.

Stay Positive and Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Things

Scared of committing to Snapchat? Nervous that you won’t be able to find an audience for your podcast? Neither are good enough excuses for Dolly. At 70 years old, Dolly hasn’t missed a beat, creating Spotify playlists, making Snapchat filters, appearing in Cosmo’s Happy Hour podcast, and a second NBC Christmas movie—in addition to a 60-stop tour. Dolly has never been afraid to try new things, and neither should you. The only thing worse than having a small following on a social channel is having no following at all. It’s better to start somewhere and work your way up than to chicken out of the social channel altogether.

Know and Highlight Your Best Features

As frequent as Dolly’s costume changes are, she always emphasizes her, err, “finest” assets. Take an honest inventory of your strongest content areas—specific blog posts, videos, cases studies, press hits, etc.—and highlight these attention-grabbing features in your social media calendar. Be on the lookout for new ways to bring attention to this content. For more content-promoting ideas such as relevant social media holidays, world events, etc., sign up for our Social Sidekick weekly email newsletter.

Build and maintain a solid brand identity.

As Dolly honky-tonks in “Country Is as Country Does,” “‘Cause I’m quite content with who I am/And if you ain’t, well, kiss my ham.” Whether you’re a fan or not, no one has ever accused Dolly of being off-brand. She not only embraces but encourages this on social media by sharing some of her favorite adages and quotes with the hashtag #Dollyism, bolstering her legendary status to a new generation of social media users. Follow in Dolly’s footsteps and be unapologetically YOU on social media. Sit down with your team on a regular basis to define and refine your brand’s voice and image. What do you have or what can you share better than anyone else? Find fresh ways to translate these items to your content and social media calendars, seeing new social platforms and algorithm changes not as a challenge but a new vehicle to adapt your brand voice.

Authenticity Is Everything

As Dolly herself says, “I may look fake, but I’m real where it counts.” She doesn’t let trends dictate what she does or wears—as she told The Guardian, “I’m not trying to be fashionable. Never was!” Only write and share content about what is important to you and your brand. This is key to building a long-term rapport with your following. A false tone or note rings flat and does little to earn their respect or trust. Establish a relationship with your audience by consistently sharing relevant content in an honest and empathetic fashion. Engaging with your fans’ comments and questions is essential as well. A real relationship goes both ways.

Seek out and Nurture Collaborations

Not one to hog the spotlight, Dolly’s friendly nature has always lent itself to collaboration. She has famously partnered with the likes of Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Kenny Rogers, and Porter Wagoner (whose collaboration with Parton was the inspiration for “I Will Always Love You”). To promote her Pure & Simple tour, she teamed up with Cracker Barrel and popular acapella group Pentatonix to perform an updated version of her classic “Jolene” that immediately went viral. She also released a special full-length song exclusively on Cosmo as well as an epic mash-up on Forever Country with Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Trisha Yearwood, and more. Social media managers would do well to similarly keep an eye out for influencers and accounts with similar target audiences or interests and propose a collaboration that will benefit both parties (and be fun, too).

Simple, Direct Talk Is Best

Dolly has written some of the most enduring and popular hits in music history (Jolene, 9 to 5, Islands in the Stream). All resonate deeply with listeners despite lacking pretension and multi-syllable words. Keep the blog and social media posts short and sweet, avoiding jargon and overly flowery language to replicate the relatable spirit of Parton’s writing style. If you wouldn’t say (or sing) what you’re writing in a post while having a real conversation, cut it out.

Kill’em with Kindness

Film critic Roger Ebert once wrote that meeting Parton made him feel “as if I were being mesmerized by a benevolent power. I left the room in a cloud of good feeling.” Staying optimistic and judgement-free has served Dolly well. Although it may be tempting to tweet scathing remarks about competitors, it opens the door for other brands to do the same to you. Emulate Parton by taking the high road on social media (and across the board) to reinforce your brand’s image as kind, approachable, and well-intentioned. If you take to Twitter only to criticize other brands, don’t be surprised when they and other users respond in kind. This also extends to customer service. When a user complains about your company on a social, don’t fire back. Instead, thank them for bringing the situation to your attention, apologize for any inconvenience, and attend to their issues in a timely fashion.

Above All, Keep Your Sense of Humor

Parton has long been the queen of pithy one-liners—and most of the time, her joke’s on her. Her snappy sense of humor (and humility) endears her to her fans and tempers her glamorous image. Fans prefer both bands and brands that aren’t afraid to poke fun at themselves. It’s important to consider your audience before cracking a joke on social media, but when deployed tactfully (and not at another person or brand’s expense), humor can work wonders towards humanizing your brand.

Although not everyone is a country fan, you could do worse than to take a few tips out of Parton’s rhinestone-studded playbook. When in doubt, ask yourself: what would Dolly do?


Why and How Brands Can Use Instagram Stories

Snapchat Stories have been a big success since they came on the scene in 2013 and the feature’s helped to grow Snapchat into an effective tool for brands. Instagram wanted a piece of the pie, so hey presto, now we’ve got Instagram Stories. Sounds familiar? Hands up, who would’ve loved to have been in the Snapchat HQ when they found out, ‘what do you mean, it does the SAME thing?!’ Joking aside, this is a big move for Instagram and one that can see brands reap the rewards of more engagement with consumers by creating fantastic content.

Why use it?

Brands should be getting on board with Instagram. Firstly, it has more users, 300 million daily users to be exact and it has the clout of its big brother Facebook too. It’s a more brand-friendly tool to use than Snapchat. The platform makes it easier to follow brands, like their posts and show approval of their content, which is good for measuring engagement. Snapchat hasn’t made it as easy for brands to build large followings with its user design, for example, the search function makes it difficult to find brands and you can’t ‘like’ content.

Because the similarities between Instagram Stories and Snapchat Stories are pretty striking, brands don’t have to get used to using a unique tool; they‘ll already have experience at creating short, snappy content. But there are ways of segmenting messages and targeting specific demographics, as Instagram allows brands to restrict viewing, which is good for brands with adult-friendly content.

Another example of Instagram being big buddies with brands is the introduction of a contact button on brand profiles so that customers can get in touch and interact with them. It offers another way to give great customer service and build rapport. It’s also allowing an Insights tool, so brands can improve their content strategy. Basically, Instagram can be your brand’s BFF.

Stories give brands the chance to get really creative and connect with customers in a fresh, exciting way. Here’s how.


After posting a choreographed photo or a painstakingly arranged photo with the perfect lighting, being able to give some more context and provide a behind-the-scenes video, Q&A or interview can give a brand a bit more authenticity. Giving customers an insight into your personality and the goofing around that goes on behind the posts can be just as valuable as the initial content.


Quick, concise reviews of products or instructional videos can show products actually being used instead of prim and proper photos that show them looking unused and perfect. Customers want to see content that motivates them to use a product and see people using them in a context that’s familiar to them.


Getting influencers involved with brands and collaborating with them is one of the best ways to start connecting with Generation Z who will make up over 40% of consumers in 2020. You need content that speaks to them, as well as the people to do it. Letting influencers essentially take over an account, posting content and stories helps to bring new communities to your brand and communicate something about the types of consumers you’re trying to reach out to.

On trend

With other marketing tools and channels, there can be tedious processes and lots of people that need to sign campaigns off which can make some content seem outdated by the time it’s eventually released. Instagram moments allow brands to create quick, timely content that reacts to changing situations. The whole point of the tool is about getting content out there that is reactive, responsive and interactive. Pinging creative content out there as soon as possible makes your brand look dynamic and on trend. Don’t be a sheep; get your ideas out there.


If you’re a smaller brand that hasn’t experimented much with social media marketing, especially Snapchat Stories, then Instagram Moments is a great way to see what works for your brand and how you can reach out to different demographics. Especially because of the new insights tool, you’ll be able to try out new things and see what connects with people. Smaller brands have the chance to grow loyal and robust consumer bases and you can create content that is contextual and locally minded.

Key takeaway

Instagram stories can help your brand to create an ongoing dialogue with customers and engage with new demographics. It’s vital that your brand is prepared to talk meaningfully to millennials and Generation Z and the younger users of Instagram will want creative, experimental content that is on trend and dynamic.

Becoming more adept at Instagram and understanding the wealth of functionality the platform provides to brands is necessary for today’s PR and marketing professionals. So, use Instagram Stories and see what returns you might garner from this flexible platform. To learn more about Instagram’s algorithm and how to become an expert on the platform, listen to our free downloadable webinar, Master Instagram Marketing: Learn how to use the latest Instagram updates to your advantage.


This article was written by Bryan Kramer from Business2Community, originally appeared in Bryan Kramer’s Blog, and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.