How To…Manage your social media in a crisis

There are numerous ways in which social media can (and will) play an integral role for your organisation during a crisis. Social media has been known to both amplify and even start incidents that may result in reputational damage. However, if managed appropriately, it can also be used to communicate with customers and mould public perception.

This guide covers the key points you should consider when engaging with social media during a crisis.

Number 1: HAVE A PLAN

Think how many times you’ve rehearsed for a tangible crisis, a bomb drill, a fire evacuation. Like it or not, social media is now an integral part of life and business. If you use any aspects of social media ensure it is included in your Crisis Communications Plan and rehearsed to trouble-shoot any pitfalls. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you know who specifically ‘owns’ your organisational Twitter account?
  • Have you ever rehearsed your use of social media? Do you know the log in details?
  • Do you know whether you have the ability to create an in-house YouTube clip or Podcast?
  • Do you have a catalogue of pre-agreed Tweets/ blogs/ Facebook posts at hand to inform your customers when the time comes?
  • Do you have an established social media protocol?
  • Be clear about what your company policies are on the use of social media.

Number 2: LOOK, LISTEN, REACT

During an incident it is considered best practice to nominate an individual to monitor the social networks whether you actively engage in social media or not. By monitoring social media you can learn a lot about the public’s perception and use your press releases/ Tweets/ Facebook posts/ blogs to tackle the, often misinformed, concerns circulating cyberspace, whilst ensuring you do not exacerbate potential issues. If you operate within the public domain and even if you do not proactively engage in social media, you must have the capability to monitor it. Simple tools, such as Google Alerts, make this a straightforward first step.

Number 3: BE CONSIDERED

It is essential that you maintain control during a crisis, never tweet in panic or anger. If you choose a social media channel to communicate with the blogosphere remember that this is your brand message that is being fed to the public, in other words, to your customers. In your tweeting/ blogging/ ‘YouTubing’/ ‘Facebooking’ capacity ensure you represent your organisation in a considered and measured manner.

Number 4: BE CONSISTENT

During any crisis the Holy Grail of crisis communications is to have one consistent, coordinated message. In the event of an incident all social media business-as-usual should be put on hold and a Social Media Guru (or small, close-working team of gurus depending on the size of the organisation and/ or incident) should be nominated to coordinate every media output you decide to use to ensure there is one consistent message. This person/ team should be in close proximity to the communications team for advice and approval. During an incident social media can be used to guide the public to your news pages, press releases and contact helpline.

Number 5: BE PROACTIVE

The rise of this ‘new’ media has provided everyone with a voice. Just as you would aim to be proactive with the mainstream press, do the same with the social media ‘press’ and, in an appropriate fashion, get them on your side. Where possible engage with the public and if they have genuine problems or enquiries try and obtain their phone number and direct someone to contact them or steer them to the helpline or guidance information. The more of the public you have on your side the more support you will have. If you do not provide the Social Media population with information, they might do as the press sometimes do, and either find someone who will provide information (someone who potentially does not hold your company in high esteem) or simply speculate. The quicker you can respond to rumours and incorrect facts the quicker you can dispel the myths circulating the social network.

There are over 900 million active Facebook users and more than 500 million active Tweeters worldwide. It is most certainly time to establish your social media communications strategy and plan.

About Dominic Cockram

Founder and MD of Steelhenge. Pioneer of simulation exercises with over 20 years experience in business continuity and crisis management. Dominic is an experienced speaker determined to make the world a more resilient place.

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