It is hard to imagine a business or organization that has not had to deal with some sort of crisis that impacts, or has the potential to impact, its reputation. Social media, and the speed by which it can be used to spread information, has enormous potential to accelerate a reputational crisis. Conversely, social media can be one of your most valuable tools when it comes to crisis management. Your ability to manage a crisis may, however, be directly impacted by how prepared you are to utilize social media in a focused and comprehensive way when a crisis occurs.
There are some best practices your company or organization can put in place, to help make sure you are as prepared as possible to implement effective crisis management.
- Designate a social media spokesperson for your company or organization. It will be difficult for your company or organization to act quickly if you don’t know who is responsible for utilizing social media in a crisis situation. This person should understand the mission of your organization and your marketing strategy, and should be briefed on your strategic response to the particular crisis at hand. It is important that this person understand how to appropriately (and technically) use all forms of social media utilized by your company or organization. Effective crisis management via social media will be nearly impossible if they are learning the ropes in the middle of a crisis.
- Make sure that your social media communications are appropriately informed. Get the right people involved to make sure your message is accurate and contains the appropriate expertise. Managing a crisis effectively may require that you provide your customers and/or the public with detailed information about your product, your company, or about the particular situation that created the crisis. You may also be required to respond to a complaint, negative feedback or negative press in a way that solves a specific, or even technical, problem. Though it is important to know who is responsible for posting or drafting social media content, it is even more important that you make sure the information you are putting out there is accurate. The reaction from an inaccurate or uninformed response can make your crisis management efforts futile, or even make the crisis worse.
- Use social media consistently. Don’t wait for a crisis. Certain crises may arise from, or be spread by, a third-party’s social media use. Thus, it is important to make sure you regularly monitor search engines, twitter, Facebook, online review sites, and other social media outlets for information about your company, so that you can react quickly. It is also important that you are getting your own marketing message out to your customers and the public consistently, and that you are amassing the followers you will need to reach in a crisis situation. Remember that certain social media content is now searchable via internet search engines (E.g. Google real time search results – last 24 hrs., 1 week, etc.). You can benefit from making sure that your content is what browsers see when they search for your company or organization.
- Make sure that your management and those responsible for responding to crises are properly trained. Over-reaction to a crisis, particularly one that starts or spreads via social media, can be as harmful to your reputation as the crisis itself. It is important that your management is trained on how to appropriately respond to a crisis (E.g. bad customer reviews, false information spread via social media, misuse or misappropriation of your company or organization’s trademarks, or complaints by your own employees). They should also be informed about any legal ramifications that could result from their reaction.
- Enact a concise social media policy that clarifies who may represent your company or organization via social media. Your crisis management plan could fall apart if you have multiple employees speaking on behalf of your company or organization via social media. Even when well intentioned, those employees may be off-message, and could make it more difficult for you to manage a crisis.
Social media can be a very useful tool in crisis management, but it is only as effective as you are prepared.© 2013 by McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, PLLC. All rights reserved.