Most brands have already experienced it. Whether it’s Pepsi, Nestlé, ING-DiBa, Pril or Deutsche Bahn. You all know how to get one shit storm feels. Not every negative post equals a shitstorm and the term is sometimes used in a very inflationary way. But when a business is hit, it’s important to know exactly how to deal with it. At best, a shitstorm doesn’t turn into a storm, it turns into a gentle breeze.
In the event of a shitstorm, it’s important to know where it originated and which users are distributing the content. Are there individual actors who stand out and express an opinion? Are there platforms where users coordinate and plan the shitstorm? When you post a negative post on your Facebook fan page, you usually still notice it yourself.
But what happens when a negative blog post sparks the shitstorm, users discuss it on forums, or is shared on Twitter? It is therefore advisable to always have a monitoring tool in use to find these messages. Define your setup in such a way that you can find the posts related to the shitstorm using filters or custom keywords. An email alert that also notifies you of new messages is essential. Also analyze what triggered the shitstorm, which user groups contribute to it and what communication needs the different groups have.
Once a shit storm has broken out, the company has to react quickly. Shit storms always arise very quickly so that after days a reaction completely overshoots its mark. It is therefore advisable to start thinking about what to do in the event of a crisis, even in quieter times; ie concrete plans are a must in order to be able to orientate quickly. What do the associated emergency websites, background information and contacts look like?
In the worst cases, fine adjustments are of course always necessary, but such plans help ensure that you as a company do not act hastily. Consider which departments need to work together to exchange information internally without loss and to have all stakeholders on the same level of information. Also consider whether you need external partners and how you can integrate existing structures. Shit storms often arise on the weekend. Make sure all contacts are available and think about an emergency plan.
If a competitor of yours has already been through a shitstorm, carefully analyze the situation. Learn from the mistakes of others to be better prepared.
You’ve located the shitstorm, identified the issues, and your answers are ready. But how do you best communicate these reactions? Regardless of where you post your statement, there are a few rules your communications department must follow.
The first step is to take any criticism seriously. It is important that you have the necessary understanding for the users and that you respond authentically. Avoid formal texts that sound like a press release. Be empathetic to the user. Do not only take responsibility for the causes, but show openly and honestly which solutions you have worked out and how you implement them.
Make sure you don’t put the cause primarily on others, as the public’s responsibility usually rests solely with you. Address the recipients individually to create credibility. Anyone who relies on standard phrases will quickly gain the resentment and disdain of many observers who haven’t been caught up in a shitstorm themselves. Be honest with the information you have. If you don’t have all the information, communicate it to the outside world.
When a shit storm rages, the negative comments rain on your company. Sympathizers, victims and trolls jump on the bandwagon and write articles about the company. Of course, it’s tempting to deny these people the chance to write to you for the time being. However, taking your Facebook fan page offline and deleting posts is the wrong move. This only leads to users getting even angrier. Ideally, you should also have a netiquette that allows you to remove abusive and vulgar posts without users seeing this as censorship.
However, under certain circumstances it makes sense to disable the rating option or the wall entry option. The damage that users cause here is often very difficult to repair afterwards and requires a lot of effort. It also helps you to maintain an overview when processing the answers and in communication.
Ideally, to spot a shit storm early on, you need to use a monitoring tool that quickly prepares the negative messages for you. Always keep a cool head and try to figure out exactly what the real problem is. Once you have identified this, communicate as equals and authentically. You’ll find that as soon as the shitstorm came, it usually goes away.