Paid media as an instrument in times of crisis

Critical headlines, raging social media followers and skeptical inquiries from customers: crises often pose challenges for companies when it comes to communication. Because organic channels often reach their limits here, the recipe for success is paid media. Here, however, it is important to master the correct keyboard.

News apps, search engines or social media – digital news controls society and determines discussions. Crises are no exception. On the contrary: dialogue and the exchange of individual experiences on digital channels are not infrequently the origin of a crisis. Organizations and brands that sit out criticism and refuse to respond usually make things worse. Basically, of course, companies should systematically prepare for crises. From crisis manuals to training courses so that the processes are in place for an emergency. However, it is also a fact that many companies do not yet have paid media as an instrument in the orchestra of crisis communication.

Master the keyboard of the various paid media channels

Whether a sudden crisis or a creeping process: good crisis preparation is essential for online and offline media. If you go deeper into the digital sphere of communication, nowadays there is no way around paid media as part of holistic crisis communication. Paid media is mainly used where organic channels (owned media) reach their limits – in social media, in search engines or on publisher sites. The variety of formats of paid placements gives brands and companies not only reach, but above all a very specific hearing for their topics: Target group-specific targeting of messages using various criteria such as geography, time of day, keywords,

Companies should take the following five building blocks to heart when it comes to digital crisis communication:

1. Keep an eye on the crisis through social media monitoring

The early detection of crises is the be-all and end-all. Only those who constantly keep an eye on their own stakeholders, brands and issues know what is being talked about. Early support for criticism or difficult situations prevents a crisis from growing out. A concept and the right tools for crisis monitoring are essential.

2. Approach paid media planning strategically

Anyone who builds on the strengths of paid media in crisis situations should not lose any time. Both channel selection and crisis budgets (and here “more” media budget does not necessarily mean “less” crisis – it depends on the targeted use of the media budget) should be coordinated and approved before the crisis breaks out and grows. A solid kit of crisis communication includes all the key contacts for paid media and social media accounts, clear guidelines for the design of communication media, clearly defined access rights and practicable processes and responsibilities in community management. This is the only way to react immediately to crises.

3. Take into account the paid media activities of day-to-day business

Paid media channels are used frequently, regularly and often permanently in day-to-day business. But what if a crisis occurs? Promoting new diesel vehicles during the diesel crisis is more than inappropriate. It is therefore not only important to easily activate paid media measures, but also to quickly switch off or pause advertising measures that cast a bad light on the brand in connection with the crisis.

4. Hit the right note and find the right words

Regardless of whether crises take place locally, regionally or globally: With the help of the right (paid media) measures, worse can be averted. An example: Using Google Adwords and / or social media, your own message can be directed to the target audience quickly and in a targeted manner. All relevant search terms or characteristics or interests of the target group can be determined so that one can react directly to most search queries about the crisis. In this way, the viewpoint of one’s own organization on the crisis can be conveyed, where otherwise only drivers of the crisis – for example in the form of blog posts or media reports – can be found.

5. Bring communication back to the (new) normality after the crisis

Crises pass, because the media agenda changes from day to day. The point in time at which the criticism levels off can be identified through constant crisis monitoring. The scope of the use of paid media should be based on the strength of the crisis – and expire with the crisis. Otherwise there is a risk of keeping crisis topics alive via paid media channels that would otherwise have long since been replaced by other topics.

The bottom line is that paid media channels can be used excellently to react quickly and flexibly to criticism in times of crisis, because messages can be directed to the right target group in a controlled manner. Organizations that prepare concepts for strategic crisis communication can no longer avoid using paid media. But only those who master the keyboard of the various paid media channels and invest in strategic planning can effectively protect their own organization and set the tone in the next crisis.

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