In today’s digital age, where everyone is a potential journalist, companies need to be prepared for a crisis. It is no longer a case of if a crisis will happen, but when it will happen.
The good news is that you can be prepared. The first thing to do is plot your crisis plan on a crisis maturity model. This will show you how ready you are right now, and plot where you want to get to. It will highlight the weaknesses in your crisis plan so you can look to plug the gaps.
Next, identify the risks. You will know some of the potential risks to your business, but you can also use social listening tools and insights reports to hear what people are saying about your brand, your product, your industry or the big issues of the day, to spot issues that might be bubbling away on social media. If you know about a problem, you can do something about it to avoid it turning into a crisis.
The key to responding successfully in a crisis is to move fast. That means having your messages prepared beforehand, as far as you can. If your PR or corporate comms team is writing your crisis messages, you can adapt them for social media. I call this ‘socialising’ your crisis content. Take the content designed for media and condense it down into bite sized manageable chunks so it is easily readable on social. Test it for how ‘human’ it sounds.
One of the biggest challenges that brands face during a crisis is coming across as cold, corporate and faceless. When I run crisis training, I typically see brands post corporate sounding messages on social, without thinking about the tone of the content, whether it expresses empathy, or how it will resonate with your audience. Practise writing your social statements to make sure you hit the mark.
The best chance any brand has of managing a crisis and minimising the damage to its reputation is to practise, practise and practise. That means running realistic simulations that mimic the volume, pace and pressure of a crisis breaking over social media, and testing your processes and ability to cope. These simulations should be run regularly so a strong response becomes instinctive to your social team.
Don’t leave anything to chance in a crisis. That means making sure everything is in place, and your team is properly prepared. No one likes surprises, and especially not during a crisis.