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By the time a social media crisis hits a company- it’s too late. All one can do is deploy teams to contain and put out the digital fire.

Such emergencies are difficult to prepare for because they don’t happen often. If they did, companies wouldn’t be able to move forward. Businesses would get sucked into a whirlwind of controversial issues and nasty comments, stifling innovation and undoing years of hard work along the way.

With so few tools available for today’s modern brands, what is the best way to plan and prepare for a public relations disaster?

The Polpeo Digital Calamity Experience

Launched in 2013, Polpeo specializes in social media crisis stimulations. They don’t just conduct seminars and pass around worksheets for company representatives to fill out. Instead, the business recreates a full-blown PR nightmare for professionals to dive into, defuse and hopefully never encounter in the real world.

Polpeo mentions the following about its services on the official website:

Our proprietary simulation software mimics social media channels – microblogs, social networks, news channels, video networks, blogs and forums – while our experienced community and social media managers play the role of the public, responding to everything your team is doing to manage the unfolding crisis.

 A social media crisis simulation is the closest thing possible to a real crisis, but with your response conducted in a secure, closed environment. Your team will rehearse, learn and make mistakes in private, enabling you to redesign and improve your crisis response plan.

We all saw what happened to Malaysia Airlines after flight MH370 disappeared. The lack of immediate reassurance from the global company contributed to its downward spiral, which eventually led to a massive government bailout.

Could the situation have been better handled if the air transportation establishment had invested in Polpeo’s crisis stimulations? Possibly.


Polpeo at SXSW

In March, the company held a crisis stimulation workshop to give professionals a taste of how much damage a brand emergency can do to a business. Their impressive crisis facilities included a clone of Twitter and Facebook. During the actual stimulation, individuals were grouped into small teams.

Polpeo employees conjured up a plot that was the pickle of all pickles- an offensive, intoxicated CEO of a tech company paints the town red before a huge event. Alerts filled the room as soon as coverage hit the fake social networks. To stop the digital onslaught, some were replying to rude messages, while others were desperately asking the mock COO for quotes to put in a timely press release.

The moderators scored the teams based on a range of components, which determined how well the crisis was handled. A flawless zero was the score to aim for.

The stimulation received a fair amount of positive feedback. Casey Newton from The Verge highlighted one of her biggest takeaways from the event:

“My other big takeaway from social media crises: use the frowny-face emoji wherever you can. When your CEO is caught exposing himself in public, it really does go a long way.”

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