You may not think a crisis will happen to you. Crisis is such a BIG word that it can seem like one of those things that happen to OTHER people. Not us. But in this post (and podcast episode) I want to talk about the kinds of challenges we can face and how to handle an online crisis when it comes your way. Because it WILL come your way if it hasn’t already. The one thing I know is that you want to be prepared before a crisis hits.
Listen to Create If Writing – Episode 045
How to Handle an Online Crisis
Before we talk about the details of how to handle an online crisis, let’s create some umbrellas for what kind of crises you might face and how you may respond.
Raise your hand if your blog has ever crashed at an inopportune time. (Or if you’ve ever been personally victimized by Regina George.) If it hasn’t happened to you, it will. Today. Tomorrow. Next week. I deleted a whole blog once. I feel you when you have big tech issues, you need to have someone on call that can help. Whether that’s the customer support for your blog or platform (note: the free Mailchimp plan does NOT come with any customer support) or a friend who can get in and fix your code, this is a place where knowing smart people comes in handy.
You can do this one of two ways: by making a mistake or by choosing a stance on a controversial issue. You cannot always avoid the first one. Last night I sent a text to my sister-in-law and with one slip of a vowel, “duck face” became something much less savory. (Though for the record, I don’t support duck face either.) You might send an inappropriate tweet or choose a hashtag that (in context) may have serious implications. (Ex: When DiGiornio Pizza chose a hashtag intended to reference staying home for frozen pizza that was widely used in regards to domestic violence.) It happens. It might happen to you.
You may also choose a stance or to post on a topic that invites a firestorm all on its own. This is when you need to really pick your battles. Do you REALLY want to take on that hot button issue? What if you get the traffic you’re trying for and everyone HATES what you said? You need to decide if that’s an area you really want to stand for or a hill you want to die on. If you choose a controversial topic, be ready for the attention, positive or negative.
You may have a real life situation that pulls you away from the internet at an inopportune time or in such a way that you need to post, but can’t. For me, this happened in one of my births when I wasn’t able to communicate personally with people in my life OR in my public blog world. It’s a great idea to always have a person you trust know the passwords or be an admin on your blog or accounts in case you need to communicate something and cannot actually do so.
Create a Crisis Plan
Be Aware. Have alerts set up and check in daily with your accounts to make sure if you are being attacked or if you have a tech issue, you KNOW about it. Down Notifier is a great way to know if your site is down, by the way. This is how I knew it was time to move out of my BlueHost hosting, though I had been happy with them for three years.
Consider Your General Response. Do you respond to negative comment? Do you delete negativity? Some blogs have a general no-negative-comments policy that they overtly state. Then they delete anything that doesn’t add to the atmosphere they want to cultivate. Make your choice before you ever get a comment from haters.
Consider the Specific Situation. You may want to respond in some cases and delete in others. You may want to respond with humor or with sincere apology alone. General responses will give you a framework and then with each specific instance, you should consider the context.
Have Friends on Call. Know some tech wizards and other great people to help with tech issues or who can read over your response tweets or emails before you send out a response. Make sure someone you trust (and that has some blog or social media knowledge) has access to your accounts.
Links & People Mentioned in the Episode
- The Red Cross “drunk tweet” situation.
- The Yellowstone bison controversy.
- Kohl’s quick response to a positive viral post.
- More examples of social media fails to make you feel better.