What Brands Can Learn About Social Media Strategy in the Face of Public Crisis

Social lessons learned from national tragedies such as the Sandy Hook shooting

Woman stressed about Twitter and social media

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Crises seem to occur more frequently, and their effect on a brand’s reputation, cash flow, and revenue can be severe. Today’s information flows at the speed of light and brands have to be ready to jump at a moment’s notice, with no time wasted on making decisions. It’s that quick turnaround that caused both personal and corporate brands to share inaccurate and, in some cases, insensitive material regarding the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

It is imperative that your brand establish a crisis management plan, which ensures you will be able to handle almost any crisis once it strikes.  If you have yet to establish a crisis management system, here’s what you should consider:

Get the Facts

When a crisis is developing, it is important that you verify information from credible sources before you attempt any messaging online. For example, government agency websites or international news sources such as CNN, MSNBC or BBC.

Take Note

Listen to what your customers are saying about the particular crisis. Use social media monitoring tools to aggregate their comments. Use that data to determine how you will address them.

Cease Posting Any Scheduled Content

All scheduled content should be stopped immediately and rescheduled. Posting sales announcements and promotional messages during a tragedy are often viewed as insensitive.

Rally the troops

Gather your core team for a quick briefing and discussion on what actions your brand will take during this time; whether it be sending out a press release, e-mail blast or remaining silent.

Follow Through

Plan ahead for follow up and follow through. A company whose clients may have been affected by the crisis should prepare to check in on them and even touch bases at a later date to ensure they are doing better.

During an outage that affected numerous Chase customers, the banking institution made sure to follow up with the various clients who at-mentioned the brand on Twitter with their complaints. Not only did they respond to their customers in a timely fashion, they followed up in the days that followed the initial incident. While this wasn’t as national tragedy, it is a great example of how brands can master the art of the follow-up.

Forward Thinking

Keep your plan up to date. Every time a new crisis situation arises, there will be new lessons learned. Facilitate a Start-Stop-Continue discussion, it’s a great way to evaluate what has happened so far, and encourage employees to optimize and improve communications during these situations.

S. Lynn Cooper is a Washington, DC-based digital strategist and communications expert. Cooper is the founder and director of Socially Ahead, a strategic communications agency that specializes in the creation of social and digital strategies and campaign management. Follow her on Twitter at @sociallyahead .

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