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.

How Does Your Community Grow?

Are you part of a community? Of course you are! And more than one. In fact, if you are on Facebook you are part of the 4th largest country in the world! That’s because Facebook now has more than 300 million accounts.

This means that how we communicate is changing – and rapidly. Many youth today don’t even pick up a phone to talk; they pick it up to text. I don’t send emails to one of my dear friends because she won’t read it. If I send a message on Facebook, I know she will get it, read it, and answer it. By the way, she’s 70!

Last week I attended the PRSA-Richmond chapter meeting. We heard from Dave Saunders of Madison + Main, who talked about social media, which he says “is the marriage of creativity, technology and interactiveness.”

With more than 1.5 million people on the Web today, he says it’s critical to be connected. Most in the audience raised their hands to say they are participating in social media through LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Several had a blog. Then he stumped us. “How many have Tumblr” accounts? Very few hands. I don’t know much about it. If you do, I’d love for you to comment. 

When I Googled it (and when did that become a verb?), I discovered it is a “free and lightweight blogging platform aimed at quick and easy linking and sharing.” I’ll start experimenting soon; heck, I’m still adjusting to life with a blog. I promised myself I would post every Sunday and Wednesday so while I’d love to be reading a good book, I’ve got to finish this post. It’s just like being a reporter on deadline except that the only editor standing over me is in my head.

Dave also shared the benefits of social media and what it won’t do.  As for benefits –

  • Increased brand awareness
  • Reputation management
  • Improved search engine rankings
  • Increased Web site traffic
  • More sales for your product or service (if you didn’t know it, Dave says, “Cold calls are dead.”)

 What it won’t do –

  • Fix a broken company
  • Make you rich
  • Replace your other forms of marketing or PR

Quite simply, social media is another platform that is used to enhance your community, personally or professionally. So how does your community grow?