We’ve all seen the impressive and sometimes frightening speed at which information posted on social media can spread. Social media can be the best crisis-management tool you have, or a reputation-destroying nightmare.
Do you have a social media strategy in place, or will THIS be what people will be reading about your business?
Imagine this Tweet being the first thing the world sees after a theft at your office.
What people see is:
- Client information stolen
- Laughable security
- A lax attitude towards it all.
Is THIS what you want the world to see?
Follow these 5 tips to use social media to manage your emergency and actually improve your reputation:
- Have a Strategy
Social media makes it easy for anyone in your company to speak their mind. In a crisis, you have to control the flow of information. Decide ahead of time who is authorized to communicate on behalf of your company, and what tools those people need to do it well.
For example, the CEO could use Twitter to speak directly to shareholders, customers, and employees. The CFO could update Facebook and the company blog with status updates.
Your strategy should also include crisis monitoring. Who is monitoring your social media feeds for comments and questions? Is someone following industry blogs for breaking news stories? What about related forums and competitor feeds?
By staying on top of the conversation, you can help shape the response.
- Be Prepared – Train for a Crisis
The middle of a crisis is the worst time to figure out how to deal with one. Once you’ve defined your strategy, train your staff on what they are permitted and not permitted to post regarding the company. Do you want employees putting out Facebook posts about an office fire that destroyed old tax records? What about someone posting a question on a forum about job security during an IRS audit?
If you don’t make it clear what’s permitted and what’s not, don’t expect employees to know the difference.
By having a strategy in place and communicating it well, you can actually improve your company’s reputation during a crisis. This won’t happen if your employees are working against you. Which brings us to #3.
- Speak Early, Speak Often
Silence is your worst enemy. You want to get out in front of the emergency, and control the story from the outset. Take responsibility, take control, and take action.
Once you’ve addressed the issue, update frequently. This works to show people you’re taking it seriously, and that you’re in control. Best of all, it makes it harder for those who might try to use your silence to take advantage of the situation.
- Be a Person, NOT a Company
Have you ever heard a company response to a crisis that sounds like a lawyer wrote it? Didn’t you hate how it insulted your intelligence? Didn’t you think to yourself “Why can’t they just tell us what’s going on?” Now’s your chance to do the right thing.
Remember, with social media you’re speaking to individuals – why not just talk to them?
Use a personal Twitter account. Be straightforward and take responsibility. People are forgiving of mistakes and disasters as long as they feel you respect them. Above all, be HONEST and they’ll respect you for it.
- Post Crisis Review and Final Communications
When the crisis has passed, it’s time to do gather feedback and make some changes.
Start by analyzing the response. What worked? What didn’t? Did everyone know what to do? Did the tools you relied on perform the way they needed to? Did something fail? Did someone say something they weren’t supposed to?
Identify problem areas and remediate them as soon as possible to ensure they don’t affect you again. No crisis response will be perfect, but each one should be better than the last.
Don’t just cut off your social media communications when the crisis is past. Keep the conversation going and use social media as a regular means for getting your message out to those following your company.
THIS is true reputation management, and how you turn customers into raving fans.
Don’t use crisis management to get back to where you were – use it to grow!
Of course, there’s more to an effective social media plan than this. Do you want to be sure you have your bases covered? Do you want to ensure everyone in your organization knows what their role is? Contact me today at firstname.lastname@example.org for a consultation on creating a crisis communications plan.
David Discenza, CBCP, president of Discenza Business Continuity Solutions, has been involved in business continuity planning since 2009. He was the business continuity manager for the Risk & Information Management (RIM) group within American Express and currently works with companies in Philadelphia, New York City, Washington, DC, Baltimore, Connecticut, and nationwide to help them formulate plans they can implement when an unexpected business interruption occurs. David is certified as a Business Continuity Planner by the Disaster Recovery Institute International.