Crisis Social Media – You Need to Have a Plan

By Jo Trizila, President and CEO, TrizCom PR

Every business should have a crisis management plan and a social media crisis plan. The strategy will be similar but different tactics.

It can take a brand years to build its reputation, yet it can be destroyed in seconds.

It is not a matter of if your company/brand will face a crisis but rather when it will face a crisis. Preparation will either make or break your brand reputation. Nowadays, crises seem to happen, or rather break, online first and then spread to traditional media.

It really doesn’t matter, in my opinion, what the crisis scenario is: having a social and traditional plan in place is key. Just as a traditional crisis plan is never final, a social crisis plan is never final.

o    The crisis communication plan approach:

§    Anticipate

§    Prepare

§    Respond

§    Evaluate

 o   Social media crisis plans should include:

§    Identification of the social crisis team

§    Social spokesperson identified

§    Identify social crisis command center (this is key – if something happens to your headquarters, where you will be posting/responding from?)

§    Identify target audiences for various anticipated scenarios

§    Company “media policy” procedures and protocol (include: Social Communication Policy, Company Statement and Social Communications Process)

§    Response plan (who, what, when, where, how and situational assessment)

§    Social media asset inventory (what social channels do you have? where are the passwords kept?) – IMPORTANT: this also includes any prescheduled social posts you may have. (This happened in Texas last year. The Lt. Gov. had a prescheduled tweet “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” This tweet was sent out following the Florida gay nightclub attack. Many people believed that it was an attack against the LGBT community. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick claimed that it was prescheduled and pulled the tweet – though the damage had already been done.)

§    Preapproved company statements and key messages (internal & external) Keep in mind, transparency AND honesty are key. If you have been hacked, if someone made a mistake and/or if the fault is yours, OWN IT and admit it. Your followers recognize that mistakes happen, but when it takes a brand an hour to respond or if they hide/deny, they will come out looking like a brand that does not care.

§    Social media Crisis Communication check list

§    Social media monitoring tools inventory

§    Contacting process (who contacts who to advise on crisis)

§    Testing

§    Social media role playing

§    Sharing the social crisis plan to stakeholders

Educate yourself on what is an issue and what is a full blown crisis. So many crisis situations we work on started off as issues. Issues are much easier to control.

Speed is imperative. Since most crisis situations today break on social, brands have to respond quickly. The slower a brand is to respond to a crisis, the more assumptions are made and the faster it spreads.

Many times in crisis situations, brands either say way too much or say nothing at all. Know your messages/statements inside and out. Practice. Practice. Practice.

In addition to your crisis plan, companies should also develop a social media crisis plan. The message/statement does not change.

National Crisis – turn off Auto-Posts: see example above with Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

Tell the truth. As Steve Jobs said, “To me a brand is one simple thing and that is trust.”

You have to practice/test your crisis social communication plan. Think of a fire drill. You have an exit plan that is circulated throughout the office, you practice your evacuation route a couple of times a year, and you revise accordingly. This is how brands should think of their crisis plan. Unfortunately, many businesses pay for a top notch plan and then put it on a shelf and don’t ever look at it until they need it.

At TrizCom PR, we specialize in issues and crisis communication. If you are in need of a plan or a reactive response please contact me, Jo Trizila. I answerer my phone and check email 24/7. jo@trizcom.com o) 972-247-1369 c) 214-232-0078.