Mastering Social Media Crisis Comms
By Shannon Van Every, Senior Account Manager
Crises may happen in the real world, but they catch fire and spread on social media. One minute, your organization is humming along just fine, and the next minute, you’re embroiled in a crisis. An executive comes under scrutiny for alleged wrongdoing. Your organization is caught amid a legal battle. Or maybe a spokesperson makes a poor word choice. Whatever it is, the speed and ease at which social media fans the flames of crisis can whip up a firestorm of critique.
Public outcry can cause severe damage to your organization’s reputation and, if public, its stock value. Because news spreads so quickly across social media, that must be one of the first venues where you address the crisis.
That’s why B2B tech comms teams must have a social-media focused crisis communications plan that is tested and ready to go. A social media crisis comms plan needs professionals with media training, both within your organization and your public relations agency, to immediately address the issue on all fronts before someone else can drive the narrative.
Four helpful steps
Here, we’ve identified four best practices for ensuring you can successfully execute on a social media crisis plan.
- Develop a crisis communications plan: Before you even get to the social media portion, it’s important to have an overarching crisis management plan in place if you don’t already. It should delineate the roles and responsibilities for all members of the crisis management team. Include current contact information for critical employees to make sure you can contact them when crisis strikes. Include a communication plan for internal updates – it’s important to keep employees informed and ready to respond about what’s going on, too.
- Determine approvals: Decide on an approval process for all social media posts that go out at this time. Make sure everyone has a copy of your company’s social media policy. Determine the chain of command that will enable a crisis management team member to communicate quickly and in line with the appropriate messaging.
- Clarify your terms: Determine ahead of time what constitutes a crisis for your organization. Decide which kinds of events will kick your plan into action, as not every piece of bad news or negative headline should be characterized as a crisis.
- Respond quickly: Work rapidly to use the real- time nature of social media to your advantage. Release a simple, clear message from the company’s official social channels acknowledging the issue and informing people that more information is forthcoming.
Silence almost always implies guilt, so a rapid response will help contain negative sentiment about the issue and reduce the likelihood of it going viral.
Plan for victory
A crisis isn’t inevitable but given the current climate of boycotts and cancel culture, it’s more likely now than ever. That’s why you need to have a plan in place to address a crisis with clear language and to use the immediacy of social media to your advantage.
Would you like to know the other five elements of a strong social media crisis plan? Click here to get our full Social Media Crisis Communications Protocol. And if you’d like help executing on that plan, contact us.