Nothing gets deleted on the internet
Do you remember that time you posted something accidentally on your Instagram and then you tried to delete it? How many likes did you get before the post came down?
Probably more than you were comfortable with. It can happen so easily on any social platform, and sometimes even with email newsletters that really could have done with an extra proofread.
Now imagine that post wasn’t from your personal account: it was from your business. How much harder are you cringing?
That’s the problem with the internet.
No matter what you do, you can never guarantee that something has been entirely scrubbed from the internet. The cookies, caches, and people’s ability to screenshot and screen record means that it almost doesn’t matter how quickly you take down a post, the chances are someone has spotted it and nabbed it for the future.
In some cases, this can be fun. Spend a little time looking up Google or Facebook’s previous layouts. It’s incredible how old fashioned these websites appear to us now, but when we used them, we were impressed with them and how much they could do. It’s only when we look back that we see how much has progressed.
But it isn’t always fun.
The trouble with the internet never truly deleting everything is that sometimes, brands - big or small - wish that they could. Just take a look at some of these big brand faux pas, moments of bad customer service, and accidental slips of the keyboard can exist forever.
Just because it hasn’t happened to you yet, that doesn’t mean it won’t.
Whether you are looking to secure your first customer, close an investment round, or pivot to a new market, the last thing you need is something embarrassing. Working to prevent this - or managing the fall out when it does - is what we call crisis comms.
The definition of crisis comms is:
According to the fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia, crisis communications is ‘a sub-speciality of the public relations profession that is designed to protect and defend an individual, company, or organisation facing a public challenge to its reputation’. Put simply, it’s the communications you deliver to either avert or manage a reputational issue for your brand.
Some startups have managed this well. When Buffer was only three years old, it suffered a major security breach, with hackers not only gaining access to thousands of customer accounts, but also posting messages through those accounts. It was embarrassing for Buffer and they could have simply ignored the problem.
But they didn’t. They immediately published an open, honest, and transparent blog post about the breach with clear actions that they were doing to resolve the issue. They updated the blog as soon as anything changed, and re-gained their customers’ trust.
Of course, not every startup gets it right. Three years after their founding date, Zenefits (a US cloud-based HR service) was the focus of a scandal when Buzzfeed broke the story that not only was 80% of their deals brokered illegally, but that their CEO had been encouraging this. He was swiftly replaced by another C-suite member of the team, who released a letter that avoided the problem entirely.
It didn’t end well. Within a month, 17% of staff were laid off, with another 9% laid off in 2016 and 45% in 2017. The value of the business sunk from $20m to $7.8m
Crisis comms matters
The difference between getting it right and getting it wrong could be the difference between halving your revenue or even keeping your business going at all - so make sure you follow OggaDoon’s 3 steps to making sure you are prepared.
Create agreed templates.
Depending on your startup, the industry you operate in, and the risks you operate with, the potential crisis comms situations that you could find yourself in will vary. Dedicate some time writing out the top 10 situations that you think could occur - from as small as your founder accidentally sexting a customer (yes, it has happened), to a company wide cyberhack. Now you need to create template responses for each of these, and which platforms they will be shared on.
Choose a spokesperson.
Every single minute of every single day, there needs to be someone who is the spokesperson of the brand. When a crisis comms situation occurs, you may not get much notice, so you don’t want to spend the first precious hour of response time arguing about how is going to speak to the press or answer online comments and emails.
Do not forget your lawyer.
No startup wants to be in a situation where you need a lawyer, but sometimes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you need to make a formal statement to press, clients, or investors, then make sure you have a lawyer on hand to ensure you’re not compromising yourself or revealing anything too commercially sensitive. Remember, when it’s out there on the internet, it’s out there forever.
At the end of the day, it’s impossible to predict and stop absolutely all crisis comms situations, but it should be possible to prevent the ones you create for yourself! One of the best ways to prevent that sinking feeling is to sleep on whatever social you want to put out, unless it’s super topical and responding to a live situation. Better safe than sorry...
Disagree with me? Email Emily now!