Don’t Ignore Your Most Valuable Tool
Social media is significantly changing the game for crisis communications from how a crisis is initially reported to how a crisis can be effectively managed and contained. Social media has become one of the most valuable channels of communication – especially during breaking news where social media leads the pack – and therefore cannot be ignored. Though this platform is often easily utilized by the masses, it can be intimidating for some communications professionals, especially with how quickly the formats change from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram. Below are a few tips and best practices in order to guide you in your social media efforts, specifically in times of crises, no matter which new social media outlet is on top.
- PREPARE. The number one piece of advice is to prepare. Unfortunately, you can almost guarantee every company will at some point encounter some form of crisis. Big or small, make sure you have a plan in place to address these events that includes social media. Outline how you will respond and who will be in charge of these responses. You can also prepare by creating relationships online before a crisis occurs. Find and follow your partners, customers, clients and supporters, and begin regular communication with them. After all, “a crisis is not the time to start handing out business cards because by then it’s far too late.“
- LISTEN. Be sure that you are monitoring the appropriate channels to hear what social media users are saying about your company in good times and in bad. What is the response to your company? Is there misinformation being shared? If you are listening, you will provide yourself the opportunity to correct problems and reinforce positive key messages.
- JOIN IN. Once you’ve listened to the audience, and you have your plan in place to enter the conversation with on-brand, accurate information, speak up! Join the conversation that is already happening, and use the opportunity to build on the relationships created online.
- BE PROACTIVE. Address the crisis as soon as possible. If you’ve got a crisis plan in place, along with regular social media involvement, it will be even easier to speak up when a problem comes along. The more proactive your approach is, the more you can fend off the negative publicity and inaccurate statements. Answer the questions floating around out there, and, if appropriate, issue an apology.
- SHARE FACTS. Present the facts alongside your key messages. If your brand isn’t communicating on social platforms, others will be on your behalf, so be the first to share the information. Social media is the quickest way to get information out in real-time, so take advantage of the immediacy. Try thinking of Twitter as the equivalent to holding a news conference with the world. People will be checking your Twitter stream to see how you respond to the crisis, so be active and informative. In the end, good customer service and responses in the public space will benefit your brand and build credibility and trust.
- WORK WITH FOLLOWERS. Utilize your followers to get the word out by developing a hashtag (link to definition of a hashtag) that people can search, re-tweet and share. Social media allows for the public to stay informed without televisions or a computer, and a hashtag will make it easier for the public to find the information that you want out there.
Finally, remember to stay positive. With the anonymity often provided by the Internet, it’s likely you’ll hear some things you don’t want to. But like any communication channel, it’s important for you to remain positive and polite. Just one negative response can lead to whole new crisis because, as we said, it’s like having a news conference with the world.
Photo caption/source: www.text100.com