The case study involving a pet groomer and the social media crisis involving his pet grooming service is one that seems to be all too common in today’s world of instant information. Essentially, Costa and his company, Carm’s Dog House was falsely accused of harming a customer’s pet while in their care. In the end, it turned out that a family member of the customer was responsible for the pet’s injury and the story was ultimately corrected by the accusing party on social media(Mulder, 2017). While, this seems like it should be the end of it, it’s most likely far from being concluded as Costa now has the unenviable task of having to restore his businesses reputation back to 100%. Also, it would be a wise action to evaluate the situation and take steps to minimize the damage in the likely event that something similar happens again. With that in mind, I have a couple of recommendations for Costa and his business, Carm’s Dog House.
Evaluate what happened
The first step Costa should take is to evaluate the crisis and see what could have been done to avoid and/or mitigate the damage. Did Costa respond quickly enough? Was he monitoring his brand on social media? How did his regular social media postings play into fueling or retarding this crisis? From this information Costa could most likely devise a plan that would allow for a better response to any future crisis. Digging deeper, by setting up social media monitoring and reviewing the overall strategy, Costa can be aware of any further comments or information related to the previous crisis. After all, it’s likely that not everyone heard or accepted the retraction of the accusation and are still spreading information that’s false and damaging.
Provide follow-up information
Oftentimes after a crisis, there are still questions that need to be answered and information that stakeholders want and/or need to know. It is for this reason that Costa should provide any follow-up information regarding the crisis. Per Coombs; “Stakeholders may still require follow-up information and updates after the crisis is officially over. Social media provides another channel for delivering the updates and addressing specific follow-up questions stakeholders may have. This information could include; links to media interviews, inspection information from regulatory authorities, and policy/procedural changes post crisis.
The post crisis phase would be a perfect time for Costa to show why his business operation is second to none in an open, honest, and transparent manner. Some ways this could be accomplished include; attending community events in the mobile grooming truck and offer tours/walkthroughs while answering questions and providing information. A video/content series that shows how Costa and his staff take care of their customers needs as well as an informational series with topics of interest to the businesses stakeholders. In general, provide enough information to stakeholders and the public for them to draw the conclusion that this company is responsible and actually causing injury to a customer’s pet is highly unlikely.
Dealing with malicious posters on social media
Moving onto the strategy and or tactics to deal with those who fuel the fire on social media by forwarding and/or sharing untruthful and harmful information about an organization on social media. This is a common issue in our day and age that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. Per Coombs, anger is fast to be expressed on social media(2014), and with the viral nature of Web 2.0 technology, even the most outrageous and untrue of claims can be spread quickly. With that in mind, there are a couple of tactics in which to employ that can deal with those who spread untrue information on social media.
Listen, Listen, Listen
Yeah, I wrote it three times despite is not being per APA style. Why? Because it’s so important. A wise man once told me that we’re given two ears and one mouth for a reason…to listen more. With that in mind, a business needs to first take a breath and listen to what’s being said and answer a few questions; where did this come from? Is there any truth to it? Is the person simply mistaken or do they have a beef with the organization? Can the obvious malicious posters be separated from those that are legitimate inquiries? What platform was this information coming from originally?
Start with the origin
Where did the information originate? If the platform can be determined then the initial response should be given there. Was it on Youtube? Then post a video or comment in the form of a statement addressing the issue. Facebook? A well written statement on the company’s page. Twitter? A tweet with a link to a statement on the company’s page, perhaps. Essentially, the company needs to respond on the “home turf” of the crisis.
At the end of the day, there’s no way to properly respond to a malicious poster, no matter what they will twist words and spin it to fit their narrative. It is for this reason that the organization needs to rise above the fray and not engage malicious posters on a one to one basis. Simply put out a statement while addressing legitimate questions and concerns from stakeholders will cover most of the bases. When the dust settles, the organization’s legitimate fans will often see malicious and harmful posts for what they are…an attempt to take down an honest operation.
In our current time of instant 24/7 information, crisis, whether warranted or not can hit any organization, at any time. At the end of the day, organizations need to maintain a cool head, be professional, transparent, and have a crisis plan in place. If properly addressed, most organizations can come through a crisis with minimal damage to their reputations.
Coombs, W. (. (2014). Ongoing Crisis Communication. SAGE Publications.
Mulder, J. T. (2017, June 05). Syracuse groomer accused on Facebook of breaking dog’s leg; not so fast, there’s video. Retrieved from https://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2017/06/groomer_threatened_boycotted_after_false_facebook_claim_of_breaking_dogs_leg.html
Reed College of Media, West Virginia University. (2018). Week 3 Lesson: Engagement and Social Media[Online]. Retrieved from https://ecampus.wvu.edu/webapps/blackboard