Instant Karma: Managing Your Brand in a Digital world

So ‘that’ happened!

Your vast experience and marketing savvy could equip you to solve any crisis. But today’s hyper-kids are impatient. Driven by social-media steroids, they will ridicule your brand and be gone before you can bat an eyelid. The reputation you painstakingly built with linearity over several years could be razed to the ground in hours. This instant karma bites hard and bites fast!

Starbucks, British Airways or McDonalds – the bigger the brand, the faster and harder it falls. When the unforeseen slip-up that could cost your organization millions of dollars happens, you need a force of reputation fire fighters ready to go (and a genuine apology for the snafu). While each incident requires its own war-room strategy, here are a few pointers that can guide you towards salvaging your brand.

1. Design for success, not epic fails:

Hire experienced community managers who can respect your brand guidelines and reflect your customer empathy levels.  Some organizations still don’t realize the importance of not leaving social media to unsupervised interns. Have appropriate processes in place to verify any communication that goes out to the public. Ideally, this process should be as similar to a billboard or a newspaper ad approval process as possible.

2. Ignorance is NOT bliss:

The last thing your brand needs in a crisis is for you to not be aware of how and when it happened. Most brand disasters could have been averted by picking up trends early and addressing it before it gets out of hand. Invest in a crisis management team that will come in handy when your brand is in crisis mode. It is just like insurance.

3. It’s called a crisis for a reason:

Always listen and respond. You don’t know when the point of no return will descend on you. In a non-digital world, you had the luxury of time – time to assemble your team, think up a strategy, get buy-in from the leadership and then execute a well-planned message. But digital takes that away and pushes you to the vertex, your only way out is to read the signals and respond appropriately. While social media listening platforms might help you understand the signals, the right response is a factor of your customer sensibilities and company culture.

4. Plead guilty, if that’s the truth:

If the fault is yours, be transparent and respond thoughtfully but honestly. People love that. Remember, relations are built on honesty and that holds true for your customers as well. Be genuinely apologetic and suggest a remedy that you would find acceptable if you were in the disgruntled customer’s shoes.

5. And remember… you can’t please everyone every time:

If you believe you are right and have a strong reason for your trigger action, stand by it. While social media is usually partial to the “victim”, it also happens to be a two-way communication channel and the world can hear your side of the story too. The key is to be more than a 100% sure that the world will take your side.


Social media is a minefield, strewn with unsatisfied customers, humorous trolls and a small section of vocal advocates. Optimize your social media strategy – your tonality, your approach and your response mechanism – to minimize the possibility of a war of tweets. Draft a crisis management plan in advance so you are ready if all else fails.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *