Creating a Crisis Management Plan
Tips to keep your brand covered in a crisis with a coordinated social media response
There’s no shortage of stories about organizations making a bad situation worse by fumbling their social media response to it. Social Media Managers should create a Crisis Management Plan to prepare in advance for possible issues and crisis, to mitigate risk, and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.
The first, and perhaps most important, element of a Crisis Management Plan is a Social Media
Monitoring is vital for identifying and responding to external issues and crises on social media before they spiral out of control. Tools like Hootsuite allow for ongoing monitoring of things like negative keywords and sentiment, mentioned together with your organization’s name, handle, or hashtag. Your monitoring strategy should specify all the terms, names, hashtags, etc that should be monitored for your organization.
Next, it’s important to arm yourself with pre-approved messages to address potential internal and external issues. Start by brainstorming possible scenarios that could arise for your organization. For example, service outages or hacks, natural disasters affecting your region, or PR situations involving employees.
Next, coordinate with marketing and PR teams to gather existing messaging, and ensure that anything you create specifically for social strikes the right tone and conveys the appropriate information. Preparing pre-approved messaging allows for a quick responses–but whenever possible, have an in-the-moment discussion with stakeholders about the chosen response prior to posting.
In your document, list out the types of incidences and the associated messages you’ve created to deal with them. You’ll want these resources to be easy to find and use under panicked circumstances where nerves may be frayed.
Your Crisis Management Plan should also include a list of decision makers, the platforms they manage, and all needed contact information. Issues and crises can happen any time, so be sure you’re able to get in touch with a decision maker outside of business hours, if the need arises.
Finally, include a Decision Tree that defines the process that should unfold once an issue or crisis is identified. Employees will first need guidance on distinguishing a crisis and an issue, so appropriate next steps can be set in motion. Each organization will have a different conception of what constitutes a crisis, so work with internal stakeholders to come up with a definition that reflects your business context. When a crisis does unfold, it’s best to work with PR to create messaging specifically for the incident in question.
The Decision Tree should also include information like which team or team members should be engaged as a situation develops, when to pause publishing activities, and when to make a statement. It’s also a best practice to specify which decision maker determines when a crisis is over, and regular social media operations can resume.
Ultimately, Crisis Management Plans are only as effective as their execution. It’s therefore a good idea to run social media crisis drills. Running your social team through a crisis simulation will help them approach an actual crisis calmly, and familiarize them with the actual procedures required should a crisis arise.