Are you a company or a brand? Are you online using social media to help grow your brand recognition, increase sales or retain customers? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, the next question is: Do you have a social media crisis communications plan? You should. Don’t wait for a crisis to create a plan. If large companies like Applebee’s, which can afford agencies and advisors galore, can step into a massive social media shit-storm, then you as a small company can too. At SocialNicole, we have our own social media crisis communications plan that we utilize when managing our small business clients who have yet to create a plan of their own. Typically once a business faces a crisis, the company invests in creating a custom plan based on our plan as a model. Because they already invest in a professional management company, the company is safe with our guidance until they are ready to invest in their own plan. What are you doing to ensure your company is safe?
How to start to construct your own social media crisis communications plan:
1. Decide who is in the driver’s seat.
You need one person who is in charge of all online postings during a crisis. This is the only person who should be posting. Have a process of where the response is coming from and who is actually posting them.
2. Establish the calm.
Create a company attitude that you will manage communications crisis and not allow them to manage you. It’s important to balance the risks associated with moving and moving too slow to come up with an approach when a crisis happens.
3. Act quickly.
While creating a balanced approach, you want to move fast with creating your response. However, fast does not always mean that you respond fast, it means as a team you have a process in place to come up with your plan to move forward. You cannot afford to wait three days because of bureaucratic red tape.
4. Address the issue.
It’s impossible to identify every issue ahead of time, but developing a protocol of how you will handle issues is something you can do. Here are some guidelines for addressing negatives:
◦ Address reality — Deal with real facts. Social media makes it easy for people to reveal the truth as they see it. It’s important that you identify the issue behind the scenes and address what is really happening–trying to keep a charade online can collapse.
◦ Engage with critics — Traditional PR would say lay low until it blows over, but with social media and the internet this is rarely the option. We need to be prepared to engage with critics (online and offline). As long as we are facing reality, we will be able to do this effectively. Approach would be decided on a case-by-case basis.
◦ When to delete — Follow online community guidelines as part of decision-making process. If vulgar words are used, names of employees are used or inappropriate discussion is happening, deleting is an option. Remember not all channels allow an ability to “hide” or “delete.”
◦ When to respond — It’s OK to allow a comment to sit and not react immediately. If the person who posted the original comment or complaint does not continue to go on and on, assume you have some breathing room to address the issue.
◦ Solve, don’t cover up — You want to look for solutions to problems, not try to cover them up or hide them. It can be incredibly difficult to leave a negative post up on your social channel, especially when there is a nice delete button. But by leaving something negative it shows your company is transparent and you are offering solutions. The solution can be simple such as: “We hear you and will call you within the next xx minutes to discuss what happened and find a solution that works for you. Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention.”
5. Follow up.
Depending on the severity of a crisis will depend on follow up needed on a larger scale. Follow up may include:
◦ Employee notification – As a company do what you need to make your employees aware of the crisis and what do to if they are approached.
◦ Does the crisis or issue need to be addressed in a public forum such as a press release or blog post?
◦ Did you as a company solve the issue and hold true to your word?
These are just a few considerations for crafting a crisis communications plan. Each company’s response will be a little different, but the key is to have a plan in the first place. Do not wait until something goes wrong before you’re prepared for a social media crisis. Follow these steps to get started and let us know if you need help putting together a social media crisis management plan. Need help putting together a social media crisis communications plan? Contact us now!