Having a PR Crisis? There’s Probably an App for That

Automating social media

Industry players say automated crisis management software is the future of helping firms escape the circle of PR hell that is social media. And brands with numerous locations like H&R Block—which suffered a backlash on Facebook last week after 600,000 of its clients’ tax returns were delayed by as much as six weeks—look especially forward to it.

“When there’s a large workforce of people and unexpected things happen, what they say in social can be hard to rein in during different times,” said Scott Gulbransen, H&R Block’s director of social business strategy.

During its recent troubles, H&R Block wasn’t quite there yet in terms of automating social media responses in real-time for its 10,000 retail outlets. To be fair, very few—if any—brands are currently ready. But all signs point to the Kansas City, Mo.-based firm being system ready for future crises. Hundreds of the brand’s locations are implementing Expion’s Social Advocator software, which lets H&R Block send them Facebook and Twitter content for consistent messaging.

Jeremiah Owyang, an industry analyst for Altimeter Group, said brands need software to guide them out of PR pickles. “They’ll have a number of [trouble-shooting] features like tag-and-flag, keyword associations and creating watch lists for franchisees that are particularly high risks,” he said. Indeed, brands want more control over what appears on franchisees’ Facebook and Twitter pages. Ray Wert, co-founder of automotive marketing agency Tiny Toy Car, said rogue messaging often damages brands in his space.

“Many crisis communications issues are caused on the sales front,” Wert said. “Carmakers are looking for tools to help dealerships be good social media actors.” Software providers, take note.