Times of crisis, natural disaster & business interruption are unexpected and generally unwanted in business - unfortunately they usually can't be prevented. Effective management of a brand's presence using social media during a crisis is important to ensure reputations are not damaged. Preparing for and planning strategies to manage in times of crisis are important to ensure these extremely delicate times are handled correctly and don't create a new PR crisis of your own.
Why Planning is Important
Planning is important for the same reason people take out insurance - because we never know what will happen or when it will occur. By taking some time to brainstorm and draw up plans for what situations may arise and what action to take if they do, your business will be well prepared to weather the storm.
"Be Prepared" may be a long time motto of the Scouts, however it has immense value when it comes to public relations and communications in your business. During the time that a crisis is unfolding you will not be presented with the luxury of time to prepare media releases, update your website or speak with journalists let alone continue operating you business as usual.
An adequately prepared strategy will allow you to jump into action being organised and allow all of your staff to follow a consistent, on-target message. This is especially important should there be any interactions with media or journalists to ensure that staff are all providing informed & consistent responses.
Brand Management using Social Media
Automated and timed tweets or posts can cripple a brands reputation online if they are not managed well. Businesses are increasingly using services such as HootSuite which enable a team to manage and time the release of tweets and posts. At times of natural disaster, terrorist attacks or other wide spread events people turn to social media for information and discussion. These social networks are overwhelmed with talk about the event that is taking place, the last thing you want is to be injecting promotional or irrelevant posts into your followers new streams. For this reason we suggest suspending all automated or timed posts especially while an event is unfolding or processing.
Genuine & Authentic - Not Selfish Promotion
While a crisis is unfolding the only thing more damaging than posting unrelated posts (as mentioned above) is to be promoting your brand or using the event to gain exposure. Any posts that are of a promotional nature should be postponed to a later time. In turn if your business has a product or service that may offer affected people some benefit, a generous offer will reflect well on your business building trust in your brand highlighting you as a good corporate citizen. The example's below show how accommodation finder service Air BNB was able to offer genuine assistance during the recent Boston bombings, while the other example showcases how a self storage business was able to offer flood affected residents of Brisbane free storage.
Posting for the sake of saying something doesn't do any favours, lets face it there are enough people doing that already in times of crisis. Messages that really cut through are those of authenticity and that are genuine in nature (these are the ones we recommend!!). Should you wish to post in relation to a crisis ensure that the message comes across as purely genuine and heart felt-the example below is a great execution of this. The last thing you want is to be perceived as chiming in for a bit of selfish promotion.
The Go-To Person
With social media often requiring a dedicated team of employees or perhaps an external PR firm that manages it for you it is necessary to ensure you keep them in the loop with unfolding events. This may be done with a simple email to ensure the team is aware of the event and the requirement to hold off unrelated releases. Nominate one 'go-to' person within your organisation who can approve and review any outgoing posts - consider them your communications continuity person!!
While this isn't the be all and end all to brand management through social media it does cover off the big do's and don'ts that often catch out businesses online. We hope these few pointers set you in the right stead to come out of a crisis not red-faced with embarrassment but with an intact if not improved reputation. If you have any further tips or strategies for reputation management we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.