If the past year has taught businesses anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. Crisis communications plans are structured guidelines for communicating specific messages with internal and external stakeholders during an emergency or incident. They involve clear directives and task managers. Managers— plural—is worth emphasizing as it takes a village to execute a thorough crisis communications plan efficiently and effectively. Someone needs to be in charge of media relations, investor relations, employee relations, customer relations and the general communications. Thus, step one to every great crisis communications plan is designating a response team with specific, documented roles and responsibilities.
Some of the greatest assets any response team has at their disposal are the company social media profiles. Whether you have a following of 1 or 1,000,000 on a platform, your initial crisis response statement needs to be posted there. Here are more in-depth tips for using social media during a crisis:
Pin It & Update It
Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have a ‘pin’ feature that allows you to keep a post at the top of your feed, making it the first post visitors to your page see. Use this feature to make your initial crisis communications statement easy to find. As the situation evolves, post each update as a comment on the initial post to form a clear, linear progression of information. You should also craft a new status/post for every update to ensure your followers and stakeholders have the most up-to-date information.
Establish a Team of ‘Social Listeners’
While the main social media manager should be at the helm of posting official updates to the company’s profiles, they will need all hands (or in this case, eyes) on deck to respond to social media DMs, mentions and trending hashtags. This is especially important in situations where public sentiment about the company’s crisis is largely negative. It’s best practice to have a consistent reply message pre-approved by the response team leader and social media manager. Including the employees first name and team name (ex: Jane, Customer Support) will demonstrate to social media users that their response is from a direct company representative.
Today’s social media users are well-versed in spotting canned corporate messaging, and they generally aren’t appeased or amused by it. When deciding on the official response messaging, remember your crisis is likely directly impacting your audience in one way or another, so include genuine language and assurance that efforts are underway to address the crisis—the more specific, the better. Another step towards avoiding ‘canned’ messaging is instructing your social listeners to address social media users by first name or handle—this makes the message seem more personal.
Roll with the Punches
When a company is upfront, informative and quick to respond to concerns, social audiences tend to be appreciative and the initial ‘buzz’ dies down as the next big news topic gains speed. Of course, there are always going to be ‘trolls’ that pop up. Trolls refer to social media users interested in facilitating controversy, dissatisfaction or chaos. These folks excel at causing social media managers and listeners anxiety. The best strategy for dealing with social media trolls is to correct any wrong or misleading information they may be sharing and politely ask them to direct further inquiries/concerns to a specific company email. The average social media user can tell when someone else is just trying to cause a stink, so don’t fret, and just move on!
Overall, posting your initial crisis statement to social media as quickly as possible and responding to users in a timely manner will bolster public confidence in the company’s ability to address and resolve the issue at hand.
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