A crisis can strike an organization at any time and come from anywhere. In this digital era, even crises that don’t originate online will end up being hashed out in the social universe.

How can your organization be better prepared to manage a crisis gone social?

First, if your organization does not have a crisis communications plan, you need one now. Failure to have a plan in place pretty much guarantees, well … failure in managing a crisis.

A comprehensive, thoughtful crisis communications plan should assess all potential risks — disasters, product recalls, social snafus, etc. — and provide step-by-step direction about how to respond.

Whether you have a crisis communications plan or need to develop one, here’s a checklist of key social media elements and must-dos.

Before a crisis:

  • Develop social media policies that clearly define how employees can discuss company-related matters online. Review the policies with employees.
  • Establish social monitoring protocols and tools to stay on top of positive and negative mentions about your company, brands and CEO. Identifying potential threats early can help you mitigate or avoid a crisis.
  • Define what constitutes a crisis, social and otherwise, and educate your employees about how to identify and report an issue or crisis.
  • Identify a social media crisis team, or an individual to serve as part of a larger crisis communications team, to be responsible for developing posts and managing online engagement.

During a crisis:

  • Use your social channels to respond quickly to a crisis, whether it began on social or not. Even if you don’t have all the facts, acknowledge that you are aware of the situation and that you will share additional information ASAP.
  • Put all scheduled social posts on pause. Posts unrelated to the crisis will come across as tone-deaf and offensive.
  • Do not delete or hide negative comments. Instead, respond to them and try to move contentious conversations offline.
  • Maintain consistent, ongoing communications. Even if you have nothing new to share, let your social audience know that you are actively gathering and analyzing information.

After a crisis:

  • Evaluate how your company responded to the crisis. What was successful? What fell flat? What needs to be fixed?
  • Apply those learnings to your crisis communications plan to make it more effective.
  • Continue to monitor social channels to understand public post-crisis sentiment toward your company and address comments and concerns quickly.

Need help developing the social media component of your crisis communications plan? Let us know.

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