Disaster strikes. The unthinkable happens. The cat is well and truly out of the bag. What next? Best practice dictates that you have systems in place to handle a situation turned south, but this isn’t always the case. Strategy often needs to be devised quickly and under pressure. A coherent message that addresses issues of culpability and resolution has to be chiselled out before your reputation is damaged, perhaps irreparably. Investors need reassurance, employees need support, and the press needs to be carefully managed.
Social media is all too often neglected in the panic of a crisis. This can have far-reaching consequences and compound existing issues. You may not deem Twitter an essential comms channel, but a good number of your stakeholders do: if grievances are raised that you fail to address that is a major failure in crisis management, regardless of the platform. Even if you consider your website to be the only authoritative element of your owned media, a statement posted there is unlikely to be seen by the majority of concerned parties. It is only by delivering clear and effective messaging across all channels that you can address a crisis head on.
Even if your social accounts are manned, they can be a source of inconsistent messaging. The practice of assigning relatively inexperienced employees to social media handles is as widespread as it is unwise. There’s nothing worse than companies responding to complaints on a case by case basis without an underlying strategy for messaging. You shouldn’t expect individuals in junior roles to instinctively know how best to express the company’s position, and if they fail to do so that’s out of a lack of guidance rather than incompetence.
So what’s the solution? Well firstly you need to take social media seriously: it’s not going anywhere. Secondly, you need to use it correctly: social media facilitates two-way communication so don’t treat it just another channel to broadcast a message. Consistent messaging is essential, but that doesn’t mean responses shouldn’t be tailored to individual grievances. It’s the most powerful tool out there for gathering immediate feedback - don’t just talk, listen! Equally, be aware that in many cases you are posting publicly and aren’t the only party who can view your exchanges. 59% of journalists are on Twitter and are likely to turn to it when they need some juicy quotes for a story on your particular crisis.
Keep your chin up and your ears to the ground - you’ll get through this!
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