Brand on Fire: Crisis Communication on Social Media
Are you prepared for an emergency at your company? There are directions for getting out of a building and a first aid kit nearby, but how will you deal with digital emergencies? We hope you never have to break the glass on this one, but it’s best to be prepared. Let’s take a look at crisis communication on social media and how you can minimize the damage.
Steps to Follow During Crisis Communication on Social Media
Plan, don’t panic.
Don’t be reactionary when the dreaded crisis comes. When I worked in the marketing department at a college, the whole team came together to make a crisis communication plan. As a social media coordinator, I worked with the news and information director to ensure I had all of the possible scenarios accounted for and tailored my copy accordingly. The web editor had emergency landing pages created where we’d provide official updates, which allowed me to have a place to push people. On the social front, it’s best to decide which platforms you’ll share information on. For us, it was Facebook and Twitter. The more channels you have roped in there, the more risk you run of having inconsistencies.
- Document possible scenarios and write responses for your social media. (You’ll tailor the messaging when a crisis occurs, but you want to have a clear outline.)
- Include consistent hashtags and keep them simple. One of the most effective ways of owning your crisis communication is to stay organized. Having specific hashtags will give the media and your followers a place to see all of your information together. Ex: #[Your Brand]Alert or #[Your Brand]Update
- Have a landing page ready. You’ll have the bulk of your updates here, which will take the pressure off of sharing information in your social copy.
- Have an alert graphic. In the age of micro moments and snaps, it’s a good idea to have a visual identifier to grab someone’s attention.
Don’t add fuel to the fire.
This goes without saying, but don’t lie about the crisis in an attempt to cover up or make it go away – it won’t. It’s ok to say you “don’t have any updates,” but telling lies or spinning the facts will only make the situation worse. Take charge of the crisis and own the conversation to the best of your ability. I can assure you that people will talk about it, and not all of it will be factual. Which leads me to my next point …
Walk, don’t run.
In the event of an emergency, your first reaction may be to share every bit of information you have. Taking a step back and assessing the situation is a lot different than avoidance. When crisis communication is needed, you have to think about things like legal issues and investigations. The last thing you want to do is place blame or share information that wasn’t meant to be publicized yet.
- Discuss the crisis with your team
- Consult with the necessary parties (i.e. lawyers or upper management)
- Determine the timetable to releasing information
Disable cruise control.
This one goes right along with adding fuel to the fire, but I think it deserves its own point. When you’re in the middle of crisis communication, do not automate your posts. Check to ensure you have no content scheduled through a third party service. I’m all for scheduling content in the name of productivity, but when you’re in the middle of a crisis, you man the ship. European supermarket giant Tesco is a prime example of why you should check for scheduled posts. Back in 2013, there were allegations that horse meat DNA was found in their burgers. An automated Tweet scheduled for later that night didn’t help their public image.
It’s sleepy time so we’re off to hit the hay! See you at 8am for more #TescoTweets
— Tesco (@Tesco) January 17, 2013
Leave some breathing room and refrain from posting unrelated content to your social media unless you feel like it’s time to move on. Right after an emergency is not the time to share a cat meme. If the situation is severe, be tactful and put yourself in your followers’ shoes.
When you’re in the middle of crisis communication, you’re not working 9-5. It’s time to grab some coffee and get comfortable because you’ll need to monitor activity on your social accounts. It’s not a bad idea to create folders and grab screenshots of people’s comments, either. I’m a huge fan of having record of social interaction during crisis communication because you never know when you’ll need to revisit them later.
Clean up the debris.
When the dust has settled and you’re in the home stretch with your crisis communication plan, set aside time to evaluate the whole situation. Document what went as planned and what needs to be worked on.
- How did the hashtags work out?
- Did your servers crash due to too much web traffic?
- Do you feel like you had support from co-workers?
- How much time did you spend responding to your followers?
It’s also worth mentioning that damage control may take some time, too. Consider paid and earned media for helping bolster your brand’s image.
Don’t wait until an emergency comes up before you work on your crisis communication. There are a lot of variables to consider and it’ll take a team effort. Contact a crisis communication organization who can tailor a specific plan for you and your company.
While you’re at it, read up on the merits of implementing a social media ambassador program.
Of course, when it comes to monitoring and strategizing, we have a team of experts with years of experience who are ready to help. CONTACT US
Updated: Apr 13, 2022