In the marketplace of social media, successful brands are the ones who are able to leverage their assets into an authentic and meaningful conversation about topics that their target customers actually care about. These brands understand that establishing a consistent and genuine voice requires both vulnerability and honesty – two things that people relate to. But what happens when these well-intentioned brands make damaging PR mistakes on social media?

By now we’ve all seen examples of PR blunders, from athletes and pizza companies to Anthony Weiner.

It’s the double-edged sword of authenticity. Brand assets are managed by real humans who are prone to make the same mistakes real humans do. Whether through technical error or simple stupidity, even the most respected brands can be knocked down by a social media blunder. But the ones who get back up are the ones who know the three simple steps to recovery:

DiGiorno Pizza PR Blunder

Caption: “Image source: twitter”

1. Take responsibility

The worst mistake you could possibly make is to run or hide from the truth. Assess the nature of the PR blunder – was it a simple typo or mistake that could be construed by some as mildly offensive or in poor taste? If so, don’t try to delete the post. It only takes one screen-grab to go viral and the whole world will know that you tried to cover your tracks. That kind of deceptive behavior will hurt the credibility of your brand.

Instead, find a way to acknowledge your mistake in the same way that a responsible, rational person would. Don’t blame an intern or a technical malfunction or be defensive – it will only keep the conversation alive. Instead, use a sincere apology or self-deprecating humor to convey to your followers that you understand and regret the mistake. And then move on.

If the mistake was more obscene or graphic in nature (i.e., a post with nudity or offensive language), remove the post, offer an honest apology and understand that public interest is likely to follow. Be careful about using humor in this circumstance, and, if you do, make sure that it aligns with the core values and voice of your brand.

Houston Rockets Twitter PR Blunder

Caption: “Image source: twitter”

2. Look for opportunities

The best brand managers are always looking to make lemonade from lemons. So you made a mistake in judgment, now what? The best time to leverage your assets is when the most people are watching.

3. Don’t let it happen again

Assess the root cause of your mistake. Ensure that you have a single person or entity ultimately accountable for all social media postings, and limit the number of individuals who can post from your account to only the most trusted sources. We do not recommend handing social media keys to unqualified individuals.

American Red Cross Twitter PR Blunder

Caption: “Image source: twitter”

It also may make sense for you to have a process in place for approving and scheduling social media posts. This should always include another set of eyes to review for accuracy, good judgment and grammar. Ask a trusted PR firm to review and evaluate your social media strategy and policies.

By following these three simple steps, you can avoid letting a social media PR blunder turn into a long-term black mark on your brand’s reputation. You might save your job, and heck, maybe even generate more new customers.