Good communication with your stakeholders or interested parties during a crisis is fundamental to an effective crisis response and managing your business’ reputation. Although there are well-documented examples where social media content has amplified or even precipitated incidents, its speed and reach mean it also provides a powerful new channel for disseminating information, gauging reaction or spreading your message in the aftermath of a crisis.
With over 500 million active Tweeters and more than 900 million Facebook users worldwide, it is essential to understand the potential impact of social media on outside perceptions of your organisation. Here are some useful points to consider when integrating social media into your crisis communications plan.
1: HAVE A PLAN
Think how many times you’ve conducted a bomb drill, fire evacuation or rehearsed for a tangible crisis. Like it or not, social media is now an integral part of life and business. If you use any aspects of this channel, 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 creator community organisational Twitter account?
- Have you ever rehearsed your use of social media?
- Do you have an established protocol?
- Do you have a catalogue of pre-agreed Tweets/ blogs/ Facebook updates at hand to inform your customers or other stakeholders when the time comes?
- Do the right people have the log in details?
Be clear about what your company policies are on the use of social media, and be sure they are understood by all your staff.
2: LOOK, LISTEN, REACT
During an incident it is considered best practice to nominate an individual to monitor social networks, regardless of whether you actively engage in social media or not. Monitoring social media can teach you a lot about the public’s perception, providing a new stream of real-time information to support decision-making and inform responses – through either traditional media or social media if you have an active engagement strategy. Even if you do not proactively engage, you must have the capability to monitor it. Popular free tools such as Tweetdeck, Hootsuite and Google News Alerts make this a straightforward first step.
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, for example, remember that this is your brand ‘speaking’ to your customers and other interested people. In your capacity as a participant, ensure you represent your organisation in a considered and measured manner, but adapt your style to the more informal language.
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 experts 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 or team should work in close proximity to the broader communications team for advice and approval.