Social Media and Crisis Communications

Social media is woven into our lives and that means it should be part of a crisis communications plan. It also means that a breaking news story might not come from a network station or the newspaper. Today, it’s often the citizen journalists who are breaking the news.

What is your organization to do?First, be sure you develop a crisis communications plan. It’s important to have a written plan in place and staff trained before a crisis strikes. Social media has cut the response time down from a few hours to 20 minutes.

Next, be sure you are on social sites and cultivate your followers. When they post a question or comment, respond to it. Provide them access to information that they might not otherwise get. Look how President Obama used social media to drive his campaign.

Monitor the social sites so you know what people are saying about you. However, you won’t always need to respond. If negative comments appear and you have cultivated your followers, “your champions will come speak for you,” says Ann Marie van den Hurk, a PR specialist bridging the gap between traditional PR and social media. If you have a crisis, create a dedicated Twitter account with an appropriate hashtag.

Keep your website up-to-date. If there is a crisis, people are going to go to the site for information. If they can’t find the information, they are going to complain. If needed, dedicate the homepage to the situation.

Finally, provide people, including journalists, with a way to contact you online. You’ll want to share the contact details on your social sites and website. Sometimes, nothing beats a phone call to more fully discuss an issue and clarify points.

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