Crisis Management for Creators
In a Surviving Creativity podcast a couple years ago, Scott Kurtz, Cory Casoni and I discussed how creator reaction to the Patreon service-fee announcement spiraled out of control — and had some pretty nasty consequences. During that conversation, we identified an urgent need for creators to do better when it comes to crisis management.
Seeing many people overreact to a clickbait headline on a recent CNBC interview with Patreon CEO Jack Conte this week made me decide to make this post today’s Free Friday post:
Why crisis management
Very few of us are truly a DIY operation — no matter what we may think. We rely on a vast array of third-party partners — WordPress, Kickstarter, Patreon, Gumroad, Paypal, Stripe, Amazon, ComiXology, and so on. All of these third-party entities share one, important factor in common — they’re all profit-motivated businesses. And, as such, they can (and will) make decisions that they feel are necessary to provide a profit for themselves. That’s how the game is played.
That means that, sometimes, those decisions will be detrimental to the creator using that service. And when that happens, it’s very easy to fall into a panic and run to social media to unleash our fury.
The problem is, this can have significant consequences on our own businesses in the process. For example, when creators flew to their Twitter accounts to shout “the sky is falling” rhetoric over Patreon’s service-fee decision, they caused serious damage to the site’s reputation among their own backers. Once the problem was — inevitably — addressed, these creators now face the daunting task of repairing that damage so they can coax back their departed patrons.
Thus the imperative to do better.
Steps to better crisis management
1. Stop. panicking.
It’s easy to get swept up in a panic response. You open your social-media app one morning, and you see trending topics, notables in your community spouting angry commentary, and hashtags aplenty. As a result, you have exactly the kind of emotional reaction that social-media thrives on. Before you know it, you’ve made a definitive stance on a topic that you may not have taken the time to fully understand both sides of.
And that’s your first clue. The best place to watch a stampede is from a distance. When you see a visceral, widespread reaction to anything, your first instinct should be to gain perspective.
Take a breath. Realize that this problem — if it is, indeed a problem — will certainly have a solution. And start accessing reliable sources of information to find that solution.
2. Model pragmatism
It’s a phrase I used repeatedly during the Patreon service-fee crisis: Model pragmatism.
A pragmatic approach is simple. Define the problem. Understand it fully. Advance towards a solution. It identifies facts and takes the time for nuance.
A pragmatic approach does not involve emotional arguments, idealistic views or romantic outlooks.
Why is this so important? Because your social-media followers are taking their cues from you. If you react with panic, they will follow suit. If you model calm, your backers will respond to that.
A pragmatic response to a crisis simply states what the problem is, notes that it’s an ongoing situation, and creates avenues for open, honest discussion.
3. Get out front of the news
Mind you, you are not the only voice that your social-media followers will be listening to. And much of what they may be hearing during this crisis will be from some of your peers who have given in to a panic response. That’s why timing is of the essence. You need to get your response out as early as possible. Frame the situation calmly — but accurately. Share as many facts as you can. Caution against some of the shoddy information that is doubtlessly circulating. And offer sincere assurances that WE (your backers/followers and you) will weather this storm together.
And then cultivate your lines of communication.
4. Keep in touch
Let’s face it. Webcartoonists thrive on communication. It how we operate. We rely on a steady flow of social-media communication for reader outreach. We make ourselves available through countless forms of contact. We’re primed for this sort of thing.
So don’t drop the ball.
Remind readers of the myriad of ways they have to contact you. Make yourself available for discussion. Set up special forums in which readers can voice concerns.
And, in those conversations offer the facts that you have verified and emphasize any ongoing progress in the situation. Don’t lie — don’t even stretch the truth. But simply share calm, reasonable words.
5. Bring it to a close
At some point, the crisis will come to an end. When that happens, offer your backers closure. It may not be the end that you had hoped for. Or maybe it’s a far better conclusion than you had anticipated. Either way, make a marked effort to help your followers close the chapter. And move on to whatever is next.
Your ability to handle yourself thoughtfully and calmly in a difficult situation is going to be definitive in your ability to sustain the countless ups and downs involved in piloting a career as a creative professional. Don’t let a momentary panic derail the creator-reader relationships you’ve spend such a long time fostering. And, overall, be a leader in the next crisis – not a follower.