To paraphrase Robert Burns, The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. It doesn’t matter how successful your brand is; eventually, crisis will strike. The question is not when or why, but how will you deal with it?
If you’re already blogging for business, then you’re in good shape. Your content strategy could turn out to be what saves you when Murphy does come knocking. Here are the five steps you need to know to leverage your blog as a crisis-aversion tool:
Step 1: Be the first to admit your wrongs.
“Your sin will find you out.” Why not make it a little easier on yourself and admit your wrongs before they are unearthed in a media uproar? As CNN Money points out, this is exactly what Toyota failed to in its “unintended acceleration” situation: “Rather than make a forthright statement about the problem, its history, and its proposed solution, the automaker responded with obfuscation, delay, blame-shifting, and denial.”
Keep one step ahead of the arrows that the media or your social media circles might sling your way. Use your company blog to admit your wrongs before someone else tells your story. When you control the conversation, you improve the odds that the truth, rather than misinformation, will be shared.
Step 2: Announce your plan of action.
Make your plan of action public knowledge. Something’s gone wrong, and now you’re going to do something about it. Those who have been hurt or inconvenienced in the crisis will appreciate being let in on what you’re doing to correct the situation.
When customers became upset about the way Netflix announced its price changes, CEO Reed Hastings wrote the perfect post on the Netflix blog. In the blog post, he admits the misstep, and then includes this magic line: “So here is what we are doing and why.” I recommend checking out that post for an example of how an apology, crisis-recovery blog post should be written.
Step 3: Listen to the response.
Once you’ve put your plan of action out there, you will get a response. Some responders will be positive, some negative. Listen to the responses, and let people know that you actually do care. Strong business bloggers aren’t just good writers; they’re also good listeners.
Step 4: Respond, engage, respond, engage…
Once your audience has spoken, it’s time to genuinely respond and engage. As Social Fresh blogger Brandon Uttley points out, this is one way Dole royally screwed up last April with its bagged salad salmonella crisis. There was simply no response for several days to the crisis. (Also, Dole didn’t have a blog at the time.)
When members of your audience express frustration, make sure you take the time to hear them out and genuinely respond. Hopefully this is already a hallmark of your content strategy. If not, create a respond-and-engage habit now so that it won’t be awkward and forced when crisis does strike.
Step 5: Don’t stop publishing.
Even if there’s no new information or the situation seems to be “under control,” keep publishing. During this crisis period, your clients and brand advocates need to know that you’re still there.
It is better to write a blog post that says there’s no new information and that nothing has changed than to remain silent and assume that others will believe you have things under control.
Ben Richardson is a writer based in Nashville, Tenn. A version of this article first appeared on ContentEqualsMoney.