Digital media can play a pivotal role in any crisis response, but its role is enhanced if a website is more than an electronic brochure and social media a megaphone for marketing messages.
A website with meaty content is a better vehicle for responding in a crisis because it offers context and a point of view. Your crisis response can follow in the tracks of your ongoing narrative and reflect the values you have espoused. It gives readers a compass, not just a platform.
Likewise, engaging social media affords your crisis response a familiar voice. This can avert stiff, legalistic-sounding apologies, which sound formulaic and inauthentic.
When Nike faced sharp criticism for its offshore manufacturing contracts, the Beaverton-based sports apparel company converted its online business presence into a forum to describe what it was doing to improve the lives of foreign workers. This was a more meaningful and tangible response than a program tucked away in a corporate social responsibility brochure. It certainly had more positive impact than ignoring the criticism.
Many websites offer content, but if the content is mostly curated confection, it won't help much in a crisis. Websites that include serious blogs or original content provide a more resonant stage for crisis response if, for no other reason, because viewers are accustomed to going there for information of interest and value.
Social media is a little different. Data shows most social media users rarely return to a brand fan page after they "like" it, nor do they rely on social media sites to influence their purchasing decisions. But social media users like to be engaged. When they are engaged, they take notice of posts, tweets and pins. These can be invaluable channels to move your crisis response message.
The best kind of crisis response is to admit your misstep, correct it and take steps to prevent a recurrence. This can be powerful form of content, which can look sorely out of place on a website devoid of content or social media that is flat.
Producing content and engaging customers takes time, but it is time well spent. It adds depth to your corporate or organizational persona. It gives you a point of personal contact to respond in a crisis.