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TikTok: a masterclass in crisis comms

How TikTok avoided a PR nightmare with great crisis communications

At a time when so many of us are distrustful of social media, it’s no wonder that TikTok has come under scrutiny. Things came to head last month when the platform’s CEO had to testify in front of the US congress.

It was clear that there is a lot of fear surrounding the platform’s use of data and without proper crisis communication, rumours could have swirled into a full blown disaster for TikTok and its CEO Shou Zi Chou.

But it took less than two minutes for TikTok to address the issue head-on, and actually build trust with their users in one short video.

Here’s why I think TikTok is a great example of how to handle crisis communication.

1. They acted quickly.

You may have heard of the term ‘golden hour’ before. It’s the idea that the sooner you act after an incident occurs the less likely it is that it will blow up into a crisis and within the first hour is ideal. In this instance Shou Zi Chou sat down almost immediately after the congress hearing to film the short video putting out a statement.


2. They found their audience

Your communication channel will vary depending on who you’re trying to reach. In this instance TikTok knew that the best way to reach their target audience, in this case their users, was through TikTok itself. The fact that the video now has over 29.2 Million views proves they made the right choice.


3. They showed humanity

CEO Shou took an informal approach to tackling the issue and even started the clip with “hey guys, it’s Shou”. He made sure to talk directly to the viewer by referring to them directly as “you” and smiled to put anyone watching at ease. This didn’t feel like a corporate cover up but more like an old friend sitting down to chat.


4. They empathised.

Instead of ignoring the concerns that many people have when it comes to TikTok, they empathised and proved they understood the issues that people are worried about. They understood the rumours, and why users were concerned. They put people’s minds at ease by being understanding, and proactively stating their approach to dealing with these issues.


With so much uncertainty, crisis communications is going to move up the agenda for comms leaders in 2023. If you want to know more about how Antidote Communications can help you with your crisis communications management, get in touch.


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