With social media, pet food consumers have numerous, easy channels to communicate their concerns or criticisms of products. Social media also allows the rapid spread of news and rumors which can escalate into a crisis or exacerbate an existing one.

“In a crisis situation, consumers head to social media to discuss the issue and get information from companies,” Brittany VanMaele, community manager with marketing communications firm Woodruff, told Petfood Industry.

Register for Petfood Forum 2018

VanMaele shared her top three tips for pet food brands to manage a social media crisis, or better yet, avoid one. She provided these tips as a preview of the session that she and Janine Smiley, Woodruff senior PR strategist, will present at Petfood Forum 2018.

How to deal with a social media crisis

1. Release public statements and updates.

A public statement can stem the flood of questions and complaints you receive via social media, said VanMaele. But just releasing a statement isn’t enough. Pet food companies’ public relations teams should provide frequent updates.

“If you don’t have a public statement out there, people will ask questions about the issue at hand and also critique a lack of response or transparency,” she said.

2. Timing is key.

Following from the importance of releasing a public statement, pet food PR teams need to get that statement out and readily available quickly.

“Be prepared to post a public statement or respond to comments and private messages, even if you don’t have all the answers,” said VanMaele.

3. Be transparent.

When you don’t have all the answers, be open about it.

“Be transparent with what you know and offer that you will provide frequent updates as the situation gets resolved,” VanMaele said.

Growing power of social media complaints

Pet food draws a high volume of emotionally charged customer complaints about products, said VanMaele. These fervent and frequent grievances can create a “for or against” wedge between pet owners and a brand.

“Complaints can create almost a ‘mini-crisis’ environment for a brand,” she said. “By being responsive and transparent, brands can prevent an issue from turning into a mini-crisis in social media. But inevitably some situations will escalate. During our session at Petfood Forum 2018 ‘Digesting your Issues: How to Deal with a Social Media Crisis,’ we will share tips for recognizing when this shift occurs and how brands can respond quickly.”

Petfood Forum 2018

Learn more about dealing with a social media crisis, during VanMaele and Smiley’s presentation at Petfood Forum 2018. Petfood Forum provides an opportunity for pet food professionals from around the world to network, exchange ideas and do business with one another and with the industry's leading pet food manufacturers and suppliers. Petfood Forum 2018 will take place at the Kansas City Convention Center in Kansas City, Missouri, USA on April 23 -25, 2018.