Using Social Media to Effectively Manage a Crisis

Translation team at CrisisCamp Haiti in D.C.
Photo by cvconnell

“In a socially-networked world where investors, customers and employees are judge, jury and news editors, companies may be able to survive foul-ups better than in the old days of “traditional” news and corporate spin.”

- Francesco Guerrera, Wall Street Journal

We are living in an age where organizations can reach out and speak directly with their audience through social media. This means that social media is a powerful communications tool for crisis management. So how can you effectively manage a crisis using social media?

  1. Incorporate social media into your crisis plan and follow it: Having a plan in place before a crisis occurs is always the best step an organization can take and social media should be incorporated into this plan. In general, when a crisis occurs, the crisis team should draft key messages (and responses) for the designated spokespersons to distribute on their social media channels. The crisis team should also ensure that everyone participating in the organization’s social media has the correct (and aligned) message.
  2. Be Authentic: In a recent article, PRSA’s chairman and CEO Gerry Corbett stressed the importance of remaining authentic during a crisis situation. This is particularly true on social media platforms where a lack of authenticity can exacerbate the situation.
  3. Be Responsive: Social media is a two-way communications tool. The crisis team should be proactive and create responses that can answer any questions the organization might receive via social media. Designated spokespersons should respond quickly with the proper message points. Quick responses help to increase the organization’s authenticity, while not responding can make it look like something is being hidden.

It is important to remember, though, that missteps on social media can be highlighted as well.  I recommend reading Matthew Yoemans’ recent article in The Guardian to see examples of social media PR crises.

Every crisis is different and requires a unique approach, but incorporating social media, being authentic and being responsive can help you effectively manage the situation.

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