When a crisis occurs, the need to communicate is urgent, especially in today’s digital world. A crisis can spread across the internet in an instant, and if you’re not prepared, things can escalate in a matter of minutes. Social media adds a layer of complexity to any crisis, and even the most experienced public relations professionals find it challenging to navigate in the event of an emergency.

The good news – if companies include social media in their crisis communications plan and have a strategic approach for implementation, then social media can actually be used to mitigate a crisis. Following are a few key steps to take during a crisis.

Stop!

In the fast-paced world we live in, it’s easy to make a snap decision and publish a post on social media without giving it a lot of thought. During a crisis, it’s crucial you pause for a moment, take a step back and strategically craft an appropriate message. Although you want to still provide a timely, honest update, it’s a delicate balance between acting swiftly and delivering a well-crafted, informative message.

Look!

It may seem fairly obvious, but it’s imperative to monitor social media regularly and particularly in the midst of a crisis. Often, a social media manager will learn about a crisis through social channels before internal leadership alerts the company. By having necessary monitoring tools in place, companies can proactively look for trending topics and messages specific to crises and tackle the challenges head-on. PR and marketing professionals can potentially prevent a crisis from growing simply by being ‘in the know’ of real-time, online activity.

Listen!

It is easy to lose focus of the goals of social media platforms. Each account should serve as both a resource for delivering content and a platform for audience engagement. A company’s Facebook or Twitter profile should not just be used for posting content; it should also be used for listening to its audience. By tracking and paying attention to your followers, it’s easy to understand what is being said. This is especially important during a crisis because you can monitor your audience’s reaction and alleviate any concerns.

Engage!

It can be tricky to decide how to respond to your followers during a crisis, but it’s important a well-thought-out broadcasted message is used. Depending on the situation, it might be appropriate to publish a quick, proactive response across multiple channels, or take a little longer to see what develops before posting anything. Either way, you want to ensure there’s a plan in place to engage with your stakeholders. There are few things worse than going radio silent in the middle of a crisis.

Whether your crisis seems routine or unusual, if it is mishandled online, then your company’s reputation and bottom line are at stake. Prior to and during times of distress, it’s always a good idea to partner with a PR firm such as Cooksey Communications to help you devise a plan for tackling a crisis. Although you can’t prepare for every possible scenario in advance, it’s key to be as prepared as possible. Integrating social media into your crisis communications plan is a step in the right direction.

Mallory Wendel
Senior Account Executive
mallory@cookseypr.com