A Public Relations (PR) crisis is almost inevitable for every business. Most businesses are likely to put the wrong foot somewhere at some point. That’s to be expected. However, you can’t afford to mess up when managing a crisis.
A PR crisis can quickly destroy the business if not strategically handled. It can also be months or years before you recover, especially with more people looking at online brand reputations.
But thanks to the internet and social media platforms, there are options on how to handle a PR crisis effectively. One of them is through PR and influencer marketing, where you forge influencer partnerships to help manage a PR crisis and come out with the least negative impact.
Read on to learn about the benefits of including influencers in your digital PR strategy.
1. Boost your engagement with an empowering campaign
Most people may not want to be associated with your brand during a public relations crisis. But influencers, through their connection with their followers, can quickly get people’s attention and boost your audience engagement rate.
Also, by using influencers to manage a crisis, you reach more than your target audience and potential customers. Influencers' follower bases provide opportunities for new markets and audiences, who you would have spent tons of resources reaching.
However, the success of a PR and influencer marketing strategy, especially in boosting engagement, is heavily reliant on your strategy in the first place. An excellent way to manage a PR crisis is by launching an empowering campaign that resonates with your audience.
A good example is Samsung’s online “Do what you can’t” campaign that they kicked off in 2017, right after the 2016 Samsung Galaxy Note 7 explosion PR crisis. The company partnered with YouTuber Casey Neistat and other social media influencers to debut the tagline. The campaign kept growing, encouraging more engagement from consumers. It helped the brand get past the previous year’s PR crisis and get more people talking about the brand in a positive way.
When choosing a prospective influencer, consider niche influencers who will ensure engagement despite the PR crisis. It is easy to dismiss micro-influencers, but research shows they offer more consumer engagement and return on investment despite their lesser follower count.
2. Improve the search results for your brand
The worst thing about having a PR crisis is the inability to erase it—the internet never forgets. For instance, people today still remember Pepsi’s PR faux pas on their “Live for Now” ad in 2017. Most people criticized the ad for trivializing the Black Lives Matter movement for financial gain.
More than five years later, people still speak about the Pepsi and Kendall Jenner crisis in a negative light. For instance, here is a recent tweet about the ad.
However, you can ensure your PR crisis is not the first thing that pops up when someone searches for your brand or company news. Influencers make this possible through one of the best influencer strategies, content. They develop positive and high-ranking PR content that changes your brand’s online reputation.
Influencer content, whether visual or written, is easier to circulate to a vast number of their loyal followers.
In essence, a piece of content that would take mass email blasts can instead reach hundreds of thousands of your intended audience with just a single tweet or Instagram post from an influencer. More people will engage with the positive content from the influencer, helping you “bury” the negative PR - not the best term but in other words take the heat off your brand.
3. Move talk away from the crisis by promoting other existing products
Making a trusted influencer your brand's face and voice can help you divert the audience’s attention from the crisis. This also comes with an added marketing advantage of a guaranteed audience, which might earn you new customers down the line.
When dealing with social influencers, you can explore options like giveaways, discounts, or a rebrand that make it easier to divert the conversation from the crisis on social channels. Creative influencers can also promote your existing products.
That is what Peloton did after it recalled its Tread+ product in 2021. The recall was made when a child died after being pulled under the rear of the treadmill. Also, 72 other reports of severe injuries were recorded.
After announcing a recall of the product, the brand continued using its fitness influencers to promote its other products, like the Peloton Bike. They also focused on creating positive content like how to use the bike safely.
That said, you still need to own up to the crisis and show proof that you are working to rectify it. Only use influencers as a complementary action to change the conversation and help you move beyond the crisis.
4. Improve brand image before critics
Using PR and influencer marketing to deal with a PR crisis comes with the bonus of gaining new customers and new quality leads to your sales funnel. This is because the influencers have a ready audience, some with millions of followers.
So by featuring your brand’s services or products, they can increase the number of people that know about your brand and what you stand for. That includes your critics.
Glossier is an excellent example of a brand that used influencers to improve its brand image before critics after a crisis. In 2020, former employees accused Glossier of fostering a work environment espousing racism and a lack of inclusivity.
After issuing a public apology and promising to do better, Glossier got more influencers of color on board. This move went beyond tackling the crisis to gaining new followers and customers of color, who could now see the representation.
Likewise, by using influencers, you can ensure that new audiences look beyond the PR crisis and get more information about your product, services, and positive brand milestones. However, such influencer campaigns need to be well-timed, or they will worsen the PR crisis.
5. Build brand trust by promoting new products
The power of influencers is in the online personality they create, which people connect and relate to. That is why it is easy for millions of followers to accept new recipes and skincare routines or buy new products recommended by influencers, even when it is a reputation repair campaign.
For example, Pepsi launched a new limited-edition product, Pepsi Fire, just a month after the 2017 PR crisis. Pepsi worked with various authentic influencers who reviewed the product, and micro-influencers picked it up. So despite the recent crisis, people were encouraged to try it out and give reviews which most did.
Like in Pepsi’s case, the influencer's online personality and authentic relationship with followers allow people to trust them even in a crisis. As a result, brands that use influencers gain an audience that’s willing to try out their products despite the crisis.
Research shows that 63% of consumers aged 18-34 trust what an influencer says about a brand more than what the brand says about itself. That happens because influencers have managed to win the trust of their loyal audience. Brands can use that to their advantage.
How to find the right influencer
Now that you know how you can use influencers to deal with a PR crisis, the question is this: how do you find the right influencer?
Follow these steps:
1. Review your organization’s mission and values
Your influencer should embody your organization’s values. That’s the only way they can send messaging that aligns with your own. You don’t want your influencer to send conflicting messaging that will only confuse your audience or annoy them. If both of you send conflicting messaging, your reputation might take an even worse hit.
So, the first step in choosing the right influencer is to go back to your organization’s mission and values. Ask yourself, what do you stand for? Write down the most important values for you. See how they reflect in your own brand messaging. Take note of the language tone and the words you typically use.
This is the type of messaging you want your influencer to create as well.
2. Create your ideal influencer persona
Based on your review of your organization’s mission, you already know the values you want your influencer to embody and the types of messages they should create. It’s time to think about your other influencer requirements. The goal is to compile everything into a visual representation of your ideal influencer. This influencer persona can then guide you in your actual search.
So what type of information should your influencer persona include? Here are some metrics you might want to look at.
- Meaningful content: Define the types of content you want to see in your ideal influencer. What language should they use in their posts? What should be their tone? Your answers here should be based on your review of your organization’s mission and values.
- Platform: What social media platform should they be on? This should depend on your brand’s target audience. If your target audience is on Facebook, for instance, you’ll need to look for a Facebook influencer.
- Relevant audience: What types of followers should they have? This should, again, depend on your target audience.
- Credibility: Your chosen influencer should be someone their followers and other people listen to.
You can include other influencer requirements you see fit in your persona. Just make sure you define them clearly.
3. Perform a search
Since you already know what you’re looking for, searching for the ideal influencer is easier. There are tools you can use for your search.
You can check each social platform manually. For instance, on Twitter, you can go to the People tab. Search for industry-related keywords. Or you can just search for the term digital marketer.
You can also search for hashtags on these platforms. You can look for trending hashtags. These will show you trending content that can lead you to influencers you might want to reach out to. Another option is to search for your brand’s hashtags. This is one way you can find influencers who already talk about your brand.
You can also use influencer marketing tools. These tools can give you a list of influencers based on your set criteria (topics they discuss or brand mentions, for example). Then you just need to comb through the list, which usually already has each influencer’s number of followers, an estimation of their authentic engagement, their audience country, among other things.
Whichever method you choose, use your influencer persona as your guide to pick the influencer who will help you deal with your PR crisis. Then send them a direct message on social media or email them about your proposal. Once you come to an agreement, send them a background of the PR crisis so they’ll know exactly what they’re dealing with.
PR and influencer marketing can help you get through a PR crisis with less damage to your finances and reputation. Most of your customers and target market will trust an influencer more than they will ever trust any other brand communication, especially after a PR blunder.
With the right influencer, you can run successful influencer campaigns that help your brand gain more from a crisis in various ways.
It’s time to add PR and influencer marketing to your crisis management strategy.