Recently, we worked on a submission for a Social Media Crisis Guidebook that will be published in a few weeks. One of the issues we discussed in our chapter deals with the timeline of a social media crisis and how quickly companies need to respond. Before the advent of social media, a crisis situation typically had some early warning signals but now when something breaks in the twitterverse, you have little more than a few moments before it’s all over the ‘net.
Advance preparation is key to ensuring your brand is able to respond to a potential crisis quickly and effectively. Whether you are starting a crisis communications plan from scratch, or already have one in place, you must incorporate social media as part of your readiness as well as response.
- Consumers expect to receive information quickly, which is often best accomplished through social media. Getting approval on a press release or working through IT to have a statement posted on the corporate website can often cause costly delays.
- Many stakeholders receiving the bulk of their information through social media or online channels rather than through traditional media or your company’s website. Responding to a crisis situation directly in the medium in which the story broke is important to get ahead of the situation or prevent it from escalating.
- Social media channels allow you to respond with your own messages and convey exactly what you want to communicate without the filter of a reporter or blogger.
In order to effectively communicate through social media during a time of crisis, your brand must already have an established presence on your platforms of choice and be prepared to start communicating quickly so you can participate in the conversation. Needless to say, if you aren’t monitoring social media, you may be completely unaware of the crisis situation that is brewing. Even if your organization hasn’t fully embraced social media as a communications channel, it is the PR practitioners responsibility to be monitoring social media channels in good times, for the potential opportunities, and in bad times, to forewarn executives and help prevent further damage to the company’s reputation.