Social media, crises and “Who” (Part 2)

No organization wants to face a crisis, but unfortunately, crises are inevitable. They don’t have to be major events. Anything that potentially casts a brand in a negative light could – and should – be considered a crisis. A reputable brand that took years to build could bleed away like sand through an hour glass in a short,  but sustained,  social media storm. Is your team prepared to respond quickly?

To find out if you are prepared you need look no further than your crisis communications plan. In Part 1 of “Social media, crises and ‘Who,’” I shared the first five of 10 suggested strategies to consider for who should be included in your crisis communications plan from a social media perspective. I advocated that social media must be an integrated part of a unified crisis plan but too often it is a secondary priority; something to get to when you have time during a crisis. That’s dangerous. You must account for it.

In his short but useful book titled, The Checklist Manifesto: How to get things done right, author Atul Gawande advocates the need for checklists to increase efficiencies and decrease mistakes during a variety of procedures. His background is medical, but he shows how checklists can actually free skilled people to focus more on the abilities that make them exceptional while removing the need to remember mundane actions.

It is too late to decide who should do what with social media once a crisis hits. Now is the time to compile a “Who” checklist and assign responsibilities to names, keeping in mind that some people may have more than one responsibility related to social media and as defined by the crisis communications plan. Here are five more “Who” strategies to add to your checklist.

1. Who is monitoring your social media?

Right now, who is doing this for your organization? If this isn’t being done, tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your organization’s life, or it may not have a very long life. Experts agree full-blown crises are often averted if caught in the smoldering stages, so consider this person a park ranger in the spotter’s tower. This ranger is critical during the crisis because he or she can feed real-time reports on how your audiences think you are responding, or identify holes in how you aren’t responding. Who are your park rangers?

2. Who is the liaison between the crisis team and social media team?

A crisis team can only have one captain, but who in the room reports social media activities to the captain and team (and who may also direct social media activities). The captain and the liaison may be the same person, but they must be accounted for in the plan. The captain must also be responsible for ensuring a unified message is being sent through all communications channels, including social media.

3. Who puts up the crisis Web page?

The crisis may be drastic enough to warrant the launch of a temporary Web landing page that houses updates, phone numbers, Twitter feeds and other vital information. (There is actually a significant amount of information that could be included in a generic standing off-line page that is customized depending on the crisis). Who builds it? Who gives the order to launch it? Who actually launches it? Account for it.

4. Who officially posts social media?

This person officially communicates the crisis team’s speaking points through social media (and possibly the Web page and/or possibly to employee communications channels). He or she may creatively restate previous information to keep updates fresh. The information needs to keep flowing in certain crises. A designated person significantly diminishes confusion in the midst of chaos.

5. Who is compiling the social media history for the post-crisis debrief?

Since social media is such a major factor in a crisis (sometimes the flashpoint and/or the fuel), an accurate understanding of how the organization performed with social media must be part of the evaluation to refine future crisis-response planning. Who is the person gathering that information as the crisis progresses?

Every organization will face a crisis at some level of intensity and in today’s world, you can bet social media will be at or near the center of it. There is no way to avoid it. However, organizations can be social-media prepared, but only if they identify ahead of time “Who” is responsible for what? If you haven’t yet begun this process, don’t wait …start now!

(Click here to find Par 1 of Social media, crises and “Who”)

How has your organization managed social media in the midst of a crisis? 


I write...a lot, and use social and traditional media strategies to help people and organizations communicate better.

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