Social media is an increasingly important element in a successful crisis management approach. With the recent increase in the use of social media in crisis situations, organisations across all sectors need to understand the benefits of incorporating it into their crisis plan. In fact, most experts agree that social media needs to be treated as a vital part of any company’s crisis communication plan.

This step by step guide will provide an overview of social media crisis management including the goals of an effective strategy, the challenges and opportunities of each platform and details about absolute best practices for a successful implementation.

What is Crisis Management?

Crisis management is the process by which an organisation responds to a potential crisis situation that threatens to harm the organisation, its stakeholders, or the wider public. Most definitions of a crisis include three elements: (a) a threat to the organisation, (b) the element of surprise, and (c) a limited decision time.

In contrast to risk management, which entails evaluating possible hazards and determining the best ways to avoid them, social media crisis management covers the crisis plan that deals with threats that have already occurred, using social media channels.

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It is a discipline within the broader framework of management that consists of the abilities and strategies needed to recognise, assess, understand, and cope with a serious crisis, particularly from the moment it arises until recovery measures are initiated.

Why is Crisis Management so Important to an Organisation

When a crisis breaks out in your organisation and you don’t have a crisis management plan in place to address the situation, you’re likely to suffer catastrophic and long-term effects. These ramifications could be linked to a variety of legal, operational, and public relations concerns. A crisis situation could potentially knock you out of business, depending on the amount of damage.

Simply said, all organisations should have a social media crisis management plan in place so that they can be prepared for any unanticipated occurrence and avoid long-term damage.

There are four additional reasons why your company should have a crisis management plan.

A crisis communication plan can help you;

  • during crisis mode and after a crisis, assist you in maintaining your excellent reputation with customers, competitors, and industry leaders.
  • enhance the safety, health, and well-being of all those who work for and do business with your firm.
  • As an employer and a business, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’ll be prepared for any issue that arises.
  • boost productivity before, during, and after a disaster. During a crisis, everyone will understand their job and function, resulting in less downtime, more activity, and a faster resolution.

To get ready for a crisis, do the following:

  • Determine rules for communicating with key stakeholders and executives.
  • Set network-specific guidelines for communicating on social channels (since you’ll have different content and format considerations for each).
  • Decide on a process for communicating updates via your website and other online company channels not covered by social media.

What is the Impact of Social Media on Public Relations?

Social Media has become a powerful tool for communicating directly with consumers and engaging them with targeted content and creative contests. PR professionals have adapted to the usage of social media platforms to enhance the reach of the organisations they represent.

While some fear new technology and its influence on the world of PR, others embrace it. Social media has been a big part of promoting PR efforts for businesses across the globe and will continue to do so.

Over the last decade, social media and PR have transformed dramatically. The impact that this new form of communication has on PR and marketing has introduced many positive changes for companies looking for better ways to connect with their customers.

Because of their intrinsic accessibility and prominence, social media posts have become the face of an organisation, allowing the public to see how well customer service concerns are handled. Rather than directly contacting customer support representatives, customers frequently vent their frustrations on social media.

If these complaints go unresolved, the organisation may suffer unfavourable effects or suffer brand erosion. Brands that want to develop trust should focus on reputation management using social media tools.

Social Media as a Two-way Communication Tool During Crisis

Because of social sharing and the large number of users that use the platforms, social networking sites can assist extend your reach of the message during an emergency. Residents can use it as an open communication route to respond, ask questions, and provide updates.

In reality, during a crisis, social media channels may be most useful in helping emergency response managers to learn about what’s going on in real-time through social media listening.

And with social media moving at lightning speed, effective crisis management by your social team can be the difference between a few negative comments and a viral boycott

Landlines or other more traditional ways of communication may be unavailable depending on the type of occurrence, making one-to-one and one-to-many social media communications crucial for connecting with impacted populations in real-time.

Social platforms are one of the most effective ways for teams operating at the epicentre of a disaster (for example, government social media teams or health care experts) to disseminate authoritative information to the public quickly.

For people who are working on the other side of the disaster, social media provides a way for people to connect and make sense of the tragedy. These interactions can’t be ignored by brands, but they must be treated with caution.

If you’re ready to start using social networking sites as part of your emergency communication strategy, start by learning which platforms will be the most useful and effective and the right message to send in meeting your crisis communication objectives.

Key Platforms

According to a survey, the use of Facebook and Twitter as news sources is increasing, as Britons actively seek information about local and national news from these online media sites using their social accounts. 62 percent of Britons say social networking sites are where they acquire their news.

Facebook is mentioned by 66 percent of respondents, while Twitter is mentioned by 59 percent, indicating that these two channels should be included in your emergency communication strategy. You should be using social listening tools to monitor social media channels too.

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Facebook

Usage: 1.71 billion users

Purpose: Give individuals the ability to share, stay in touch with friends and family, learn about what’s going on in the world, and express themselves.

Benefits of Use During an Emergency: Facebook is used by 8.6% of the global online population and 79 percent of Americans, and its popularity is only growing. Every day, Facebook adds 500,000 new users, or six new profiles every second.

Facebook users spend an average of 20 minutes each day on the social networking site, making it potentially the most influential social network used by your community. That is to say, Facebook may be used to successfully convey relevant, urgent, breaking news or local alerts.

During an emergency, the Facebook page of your local government can be a valuable source of information, instructions, and resources. Text, photographs, photos, maps, links, and downloadable files are also simple to add.

Furthermore, Facebook has built-in functionality that allows families to locate loved ones and individuals in crisis areas to designate themselves as safe, making it one of the first places people go for news and personally impactful information during a crisis.

Twitter

Usage: 320 million Twitter users

Purpose: Twitter is a social media network that allows users to post short messages. It lets users send and receive brief messages of up to 140 characters in length. These communications, known as “tweets,” can contain links to external content or photographs, as well as relevant hashtags (#), which allow Twitter users to search for tweets on related, trending subjects.

Benefits of Use During an Emergency: Those who Tweets on a regular basis are more likely to utilise it to remark on or respond to breaking news. As a result, when news breaks, whether local, national, industry-specific, or breaking, emergency news, a user’s stream is likely to include a long list of tweets from individuals all sharing or reacting to the same topic.

So, what function does social media play in a crisis communications plan when the world is in a tailspin?

  • Rapid, direct communication of updates to your audience;
  • Support for people who need help or information;
  • Social listening to learn more broadly about what’s happening in the world and your industry, as well as what people need from your brand.

Communications Best Practices

Understanding how the information will be disseminated is crucial when planning your crisis PR strategy. Assign members of your team to keep an eye on internet conversations both during and after a crisis. Educating and aligning your team on how to handle these circumstances and who to report to can help prevent the problem from growing and make future decisions easier.

Companies must be proactive and prepared with emergency social media strategies and protocols in advance, given the intricacies of the ever-changing laws of crisis PR participation. This way, if an unanticipated crisis arises that necessitates rapid action, you’ll be prepared to use social media as a powerful tool to assist you to navigate through the chaos.

Consider the following guidelines for using social media in the event of a crisis:

Assign roles

Individuals in charge of your company’s communications initiatives should be assigned to continually watch and participate in online conversations.

Make a hashtag for your crisis

When a firm is struck with negative PR as a result of a crisis, people are likely to resort to social media to ask questions and learn more about what happened. People will be able to identify the situation, ask questions, and share your updates more easily if you create a short and intuitive hashtag.

Engage your audience

The good news is that by involving the public and speaking from an official place, you can keep control of the conversation and avoid rumours and guesswork. Make sure you react to any questions and direct people to your company’s website for more information. In addition, reach out to reporters and industry influencers to keep them updated on your problem as it unfolds. This is one method of directing the story.

If customers are already posting on your timelines, then: Assess the damage that’s been made thus far. Look at which social media accounts it’s affecting. Try to identify any trends in the comments. Pause all scheduled posts during a social media crisis, scheduled posts will at best make you look goofy

Keep the conversation fresh

Avoid using dry corporate remarks while replying to people’s comments or questions. Such comments may appear insincere, dismissive, or unconcerned with your stakeholders’ and public’s worries. Make sure you’re speaking in a conversational tone at this point. With your audience, be truthful, genuine, and caring.

Remove the topic from public view

Let’s say you’ve received some vehement criticism. You must acknowledge their existence. However, debating in front of a large audience can quickly undermine your brand’s integrity.

Your social media plan here should consist of only two letters: DM (Direct Message). Make sure everyone in the organisation knows exactly what they should (or should not) say about the crisis on social media.

Using Google alerts and other social channels, listen to people’s concerns and answer diplomatically once you’re in a private location. It’s not about scoring points or playing defence. If you handle the matter with tact, you might just improve your reputation.

Remember, you won’t be able to please everyone, and in many cases, negative social media users just seek to vent or be heard. Learn to recognize when it’s best to ignore their comments so you can focus time and energy on more constructive communication.

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Monitor

This point is repeated throughout the list because it is so important. Monitoring your company’s social mentions is a good idea in general, but it’s vital during a PR crisis. Using Google alerts, keyword searches, and social mentions, you can keep track of the positive and negative things people are saying about your business. Your organisation’s primary goal should always be to contribute to the conversation and, as a result, shape the narrative of your problem.

Crisis can also be a time of opportunity. You and your company will be better equipped to weather any catastrophe if you follow the strategies suggested above.

Mistakes to Avoid When Including Social Media in Your Crisis Management Plan

Remember the double-edged sword as you intend to use social media to its full potential to protect your brand’s reputation. Because social media is instantaneous and news spreads so quickly among so many people, the stakes are quite high.

It’s not like sending out a press release that contains a typo or a misquote and then having to resend it. The news is out once you share it on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms.

Anything you post on social media has the potential to be viewed and shared indefinitely. Even if a tweet or post is deleted, it is possible that it has already been screen-shot by a large number of people.

As you update your crisis management plan to include social media, consider adding a best practices section that helps your team avoid the following common mistakes:

Slow or delayed response

Because information and views spread swiftly on social media, you must be prepared to respond quickly in the event of a crisis. Otherwise, a knowledge void may emerge, which will be filled with people’s criticisms and speculation about your organisation.

If your social media team is small, monitoring tools can help you keep track of bad comments, viral stories, and brand mentions. Let people know that more information is coming soon.

Public squabbles

It’s been said that everyone’s a critic on the internet, which can lead to tensions escalating quickly. Encourage your employees to respond to social media followers in a respectful, honest, and consistent manner.

If a user starts making provocative or outright untrue statements, it’s time to block them or contact them immediately. After a few efforts at courteous discourse, it’s a good rule of thumb to take the conversation “offline,” whether by private message, email, or phone call.

Being caught unprepared

Take some time during your planning to prepare some essential social media statements to have on hand when the next crisis strikes. You can adjust the text as needed for the unique situation, but having a special response in place will save time and energy when it matters most.

Remember that when a crisis strikes, your people are likely to be worried, so prewriting remarks that are on brand, calm, and courteous will help you strike the correct tone for your reaction. A simple way to prevent these mishaps is by providing guidance for how team members should post on branded accounts and mention the company on their personal profiles.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, crises may be impossible to forecast, but they can be prepared for.

As you build your team, answer the following questions:

  • Who is on the social team that will take ownership of the overall strategy – assigning tasks and ensuring the team stays on target?
  • Who is responsible for identifying and monitoring potential crises?
  • Who’s going to inform management and/or other stakeholders?
  • Who will manage social media and respond to questions? And who will be handling messages that come in through other channels?
  • Which executive will act as a spokesperson for the media?
  • What is your social media policy for when a crisis occurs?

Get these roles straightened out while you have time for a solid plan. Next, it’s time to think about what sorts of crisis you might possibly face

You have to be well prepared to keep the people that matter informed whenever calamity strikes by familiarising yourself with important social platforms and using tools and technology at the appropriate level to speed multi-channel communications to avoid damages to your company’s reputation.

For more interesting articles from us on PR in a crisis check out some of our other articles:

  1. How to Prepare a PR Crisis Plan
  2. The Top Ten PR Crises of 2021
  3. The top 11 crises of 2020
  4. Top nine PR crises so far for 2019
  5. Why it’s important to prepare for a PR crisis
  6. 10 Crisis Communication Tips Every Business Needs
  7. 11 Steps For Crisis Management
  8. What Is Crisis Management And Why Its Important?

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