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Does Your Crisis Communications Plan Include Social?

Guest Post by Ann Marie van den Hurk APR. Ann Marie is principal of Mind The Gap Public Relations, LLC. 

It isn’t if a crisis is going to happen, but when it will happen.

Bad things happen to organizations, but how your organization responds during a crisis can enhance your reputation and often save your organization.

Police Car LightsAccording to a 2011 crisis preparedness survey conducted by Burson Marsteller and Penn Schoen (PDF), a good percentage (46%) of businesses do not have crisis management plans and many think they will rarely need one. Yet, 79% say they are only 12 months from a potential disaster.  And only a third have digital plans in place. Organizations aren’t prepared for a crisis, especially a crisis in the social sphere.

Does your organization have a crisis communications plan? And does it include digital?

Your crisis communications plan needs to include social media. Social media can be risky for organizations. Social media can be unpredictable. Social media is explosive. It doesn’t follow the command and control model most organizations are accustomed.

Preparation is key to ensuring that the way you react to and handle a crisis leads to a positive outcome. It is very important to have a written plan in place and staff trained before a crisis happens; because you’ll lack the time to do so once one happens. With social media added to the mix, having a plan is essential. Social media often outpaces time itself. It forces organizations to be quick.

We are living in a 24/7 media cycle. Social media isn’t traditional media-driven but community-driven. In social medi,a everyone has a voice. It is no longer push out and down, but a two-way street between the organization and public.

So how can you prepare and manage a social media meltdown?

Basic crisis communications still applies when dealing with a situation involving social media. Having a crisis communications plan serves, as an adjustable blueprint for any crisis situation and it should include:

  • Crisis response team identified and trained.
  • List of key stakeholders to communicate with directly.
  • Anticipated scenarios using the so-called SWOT analysis mapped out.
  • Holding statements written for all channels including social media and vetted by legal.
  • Notification systems such as phone trees or email and text messaging groups to communicate both internally and externally.
  • Monitoring services established listening to what is being said about the organization or a given situation.

When a social media meltdown occurs…

  • Don’t censor criticism on social media channels. This risks blowback, causing more damage.
  • Bring order to your organization’s online space by setting community guidelines upfront and sticking to them.
  • Listen and understand to what the negative commenters want. Do they want an apology or acknowledgement, or are they demanding change?
  • Keep your website and social platforms updated by people available to interact, which means 24/7 and on weekends.

With a plan and understanding of the dynamics of the social space, your organization can manage a social media meltdown successfully.

The book, Social Media Crisis Communications: Preparing for, Preventing, and Surviving a Public Relations #FAIL, can give you the skills to manage a social media situations for your organization.

For more on surviving a social media crisis, click here. 

Image: davidsonscott15 (Creative Commons)

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