Crisis Management

How to Manage a Crisis

In the vast and ever-changing world of social media, it’s not always possible to mitigate every risk. This guide will help you to develop and optimize your crisis response procedures.

How to Manage a Crisis
  • The basics
  • Are you following the MEDIC flow?
  • When crisis strikes: approve, respond, contain
  • Lessons Learned
  • Get Support

The basics

On social media, things move at lightning speed – a PR crisis can seemingly come from nowhere. To be effective in that moment, you have to plan. Make sure each individual on your team understands the procedure and their role – prepare a solid plan with a specific list of roles and responsibilities and a clear line of communication.

Of course, crisis management doesn’t begin when an issue arises. With the proper preparation, you can prevent problems from spiraling out of control. Check out the Preparing for a Crisis guide for more on that.

If you need immediate support to deal with a crisis, please contact the Global Marketing/Communications team in your BU.

Are you following the MEDIC flow?

If you have not yet set up a procedure similar to the one below, find more details in the Preparing for a Crisis guide.

When crisis strikes: approve, respond, contain

Negative comments and accusations can spread like wildfire across the social media landscape. To avoid damage to DHL’s brand, you and your team must be able to respond quickly and effectively as soon as a crisis emerges. Here’s a simple procedure to help.

Follow ARC as soon as a crisis strikes

  • Approve the response strategy and all actions as quickly as possible, with agreement from all necessary local, regional, and global decision-makers.
  • Respond with swift, accurate content in each channel where negative comments have appeared.
  • Contain the crisis with proactive statements to DHL social properties and traditional media.

An example of how to use ARC

Approve:

  • Initiate your pre-defined, real-time decision-making process to receive approval for all action, ideally within no more than a few hours. (This process should not rely on email!). 
  • Prepare a statement for the media and make spokespeople available for interviews, if necessary.

Respond:

  • Respond swiftly and locally. 
  • Comment or respond to the post within hours if possible. Issue a statement to the media and indicate that spokespeople are available for interviews, if necessary
  • Send a personal email to the customer within 24 hours.

Contain:

  • Monitor reactions to your response on both social and traditional media.
  • If the uproar does not subside, ask yourself if you need a stronger statement, such as an interview or a pre-recorded video with a top executive. 
  • Reach out to customers and influencers and ask them to post positive stories to offset the negative coverage.
  • If interest in the topic subsides, do not continue to respond. Only respond while a story is active.

Lessons Learned

Package mishandling caught on film

What we learned

Approval:

  • At the country level, we responded relatively swiftly with spokesperson interviews and an initial response post on Facebook.
  • However, because we relied on email at the time and lacked a real-time decision-making process, we were unable to deliver a more cohesive global response.
  • We needed processes in place to quickly sign off on a response – and set a target time (e.g., two hours) for decision-makers to approve actions.

Response:

  • The response to the customer was slow. We sent a personal email – which is essential! – and it was well-received, but we should have sent it within 24 hours.
  • Despite our official statement, many media outlets continued to report that DHL was not taking action against its own employee. The delayed response about this led to confused local messages and speculation.
  • A pre-defined process (e.g., MEDIC) could have streamlined the process and made our message clearer. 
  • Where relevant, reach out directly to high-value customers, business partners, or governments.

Containment:

  • We may have reduced media coverage with a stronger statement or exclusive interview with a top executive.
  • Public interest had subsided by the time we released the response video. Don’t release a video statement unless the story is still very present. A video at that point simply draws attention back to the story.
  • Don’t ask the original poster to remove the video. Instead, reach out to customers or advocates and ask them to post positive stories and/or talk to traditional media outlets to offset the negative coverage.

The lesson:

Make sure to respond rapidly so that DHL is part of the discussion right away.

Fake News

What we learned

Approval:

  • With a pre-defined process in place, our response was approved and posted quickly.
  • We responded objectively (stating facts) and intentionally avoided openly attacking the user.
  • We mentioned potential legal action.

Response:

  • Lots of positive reactions indicated that our rapid response changed the tone of the discussion. 
  • The user removed the video and issued an apology, indicating that mentioning legal action was effective.

Containment:

  • Quick action resulted in positive media coverage. By the time the media picked up the story, we had already responded. This left no room for confusion or speculation. The media covered it as a fake news story.

The lesson:

False rumors can spread on social media because users generally don’t fact-check content before sharing it. Our rapid response made sure DHL was part of the discussion early and kept a false and damaging rumor from spreading.

Get Support

If you need immediate support to deal with a crisis, please contact the Global Marketing/Communications team in your BU.

If you need help with crisis preparation and management, please reach out to the global marketing team in your BU or write to Digital Communications Team at Corporate Sustainability and Brand.