Five tips for social media crisis management

Young woman facing media and social media crisis management photo

The reality is that what many people think is a social media crisis isn’t actually a crisis at all. The long-term impact on the brand’s or company’s reputation, sales, share price etc is often minimal. However, often doesn’t mean never so it is still vital to have a social media crisis management plan to minimise the risk of a crisis and be able to respond to it professionally should you need to.

These five PR tips for social media crisis management will help you to do that.

1) Have a crisis communications plan

Social media crisis management isn’t something that sits separately and should be part of your overall crisis communications plan. It means you have thought about what needs to be done and the crisis communications plan will cover everything from spokespeople and messaging through to protocols and resources. Your plan should be a living document and reviewed on a regular basis.

2) Listen, understand and learn

You should be using social listening tools to monitor social media platforms. You’ll want to watch for changing trends as well as specific issues and conversations that might cause a problem.

3) Implement good social media governance

Today most companies and organisations have some sort of social media governance in place. However, when I review social media policies for clients they are often out of date and need to be revised.

4) Know when to respond and when not to

Just because there are negative conversations or mentions about your company, brands or people doesn’t mean you always have to respond. Part of your crisis communications plan will be developing a flow chart to help you decide if you should be responding or not.

5) Run a simulation and rehearse everything

A crisis communications plan is only good if it has been robustly tested. The best way to do this is to run a crisis simulation where you can rehearse your responses. Depending on the size of your organisation and your budget this can range from a relatively simply ‘desktop’ simulation to a much more elaborate one with TV camera crews and a ‘digital sandbox’ to simulate online news sites and social media.

Please get in touch if you want support in creating or reviewing your crisis communications plan or if you want to run a crisis simulation. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) recently worked with the Centre for National Infrastructure (part of MI5) to publish a crisis management guide for terrorist related events.

Update February 2020

These tips now feature in an episode of my PR Futurist podcast so why not listen and subscribe so you don’t miss the next episode.

PR Futurist
The PR Futurist podcast is a bite-sized podcast (just five to 10 minutes) taking a quick look at the future of public relations, corporate communications and public affairs. It is presented by internationally recognised PR futurist Stuart Bruce, a thinker and doer in modernised PR and communication who provides expert counsel and training to clients all over the world.
Five tips for social media crisis management
by Stuart Bruce

A quick five minute summary of five tips for social media crisis communications management.

1) Have a crisis communications plan

2) Listen, understand and learn

3) Implement good social media governance

4) Know when to respond and when not to

5) Run a simulation and rehearse everything

Or read the blog post.

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