Social Media and Crisis Communication: Tips to Navigate the Crisis


People love to watch a crisis unfold. Why? A crisis will spark conversation, drive traffic, and draw attention. People pay attention when the news is reporting an environmental mishap, a natural disaster, a horrific accident, a celebrity scandal - or embarrassing customer complaints and employee videos. People pay even more attention when these events happen in real time. Enter social media. The social and digital landscape of our media today has developed into a real-time conversation where the public can post or tweet their thoughts, praises, complaints, or general comments whenever they want to a worldwide audience. Businesses need to pay attention to the impact of social media when drafting their communications plan, and pay special attention to the role of social media in a crisis.

Any press isn’t good press. A crisis can either be an opportunity or detriment to a company. The key is how the business responds to a crisis. In fact, the response can actually be more important than the issue. Companies must have a well-developed and executed crisis communication plans, including the impact of social media, in order to provide appropriate responses before, during, and after a crisis. Developing a comprehensive crisis communications plan before a crisis occurs is a vital component of your overall business strategy.

How does a company navigate the rough waters of a crisis – whatever the crisis may be? Here are some tips from Ragan Communications to help weather the storm with confidence.

Crisis Communication Tips

1.    Be a good listener. In any situation, it is more important to listen first, think second, and speak third. In a crisis, it is essential. Social media has changed the media cycle and made it even more competitive. If you want social media to hear you during a crisis, a business has to listen to what the social channels are saying.

2.    Build a team. Your employees are probably the greatest, yet underutilized, source of social media savvy responders. Have a dedicated, informed employee trained and equipped to handle social media during a crisis.

3.    Be clear. It is important to match the message to the social media channel. Have an appropriate tone and wording for each group of customers – be concise, yet informative. Be honest and sincere. Stay authentic.

4.    Be prepared. Have content ready to go. This means scanning for any potential issues before they arise, and have responsive content ready to go. Media statements, tweets, videos, posts should all be prepared so there should be very little surprise when an issue develops into a crisis. But also be prepared to update, change and modify your social media plan as the situation evolves.

5.    Grow a thick skin. You won’t be able to please everyone. Resiliency is part of what makes a company strong and powerful. Social media has fans and haters, and expect to hear from both during your crisis.

6.    Practice your crisis plan. And then practice some more because practice doesn’t necessarily mean perfect, but it does mean you are more prepared to handle curveballs. The 24/7/365 nature of social media means the situation can change at any time, and for any reason.

How you respond to a crisis and how steadfast, honest and straight-forward you are in a crisiswill linger in the public's mind much longer and stronger than the facts and figures.

For More Information:
Social Media Today: How to Use Social Media to Manage a Crisis
Social Time: Social Media During a Crisis: 5 Tips