I once had a boss tell me that I didn’t need to prepare for a crisis, because nothing could happen in our business. I worked at another place that had a plan to create a plan if something ever happened. This is just scary; everyone needs a crisis communication plan and it needs to account heavily for the opportunities and risks posed by social media channels.
Your reputation can be tarnished and your ability to address an issue can literally disappear overnight if a few influencers post and share negative tweets, Facebook posts, and blog posts. You cannot afford to not pay attention and you can’t afford to be silent.
You can work to counter a social media crisis after the fact, but it makes far more sense to be prepared and have a plan that is updated regularly.
A Plan Is Your Best Insurance
As part of your social media policy and community management plan, you need to have contingencies for crisis situations. Define the steps that need to be taken should a PR crisis arise. Develop messaging that addresses known negatives and risks. Compile a list of people and other resources that will be deployed in such instances.
Monitor, Not Just for Positives
Have a plan for monitoring negative as well as positive mentions and define the threshold for reaction. Use social media listening tools to monitor conversations both inside and outside your brand. Know who the vocal commenters are and understand their networks. Know the channels as well as the accounts and hash tags being used. You actions and reactions that reflect a lack of understanding of the issue can be as damaging as the negative comments from others.
Speed matters. Acknowledge the issue even before you have a resolution or response. Make sure your detractors as well as your fans know you are on top of the issue. Being as transparent as possible — as quickly as possible — is the way to go.
Establish Effective Channels
You can’t be credible deflecting a crisis on social media if you have no banked credibility. Establish a presence on key social channels for routine communication so that you can leverage those relationships in times of crisis.
Develop an area on your website or blog that can house the information related to a crisis and what your company is doing about it. When you respond, you can use the link to streamline communication.