A Practical Guide To Preparing Your Team For A Social Media Crisis


Preparing your teams for a social media crisis: a practical guide

Click here to download the whitepaper

This whitepaper is designed to help you prepare for a crisis as it breaks and unfolds on social media, and encourages you to give social media a seat at the crisis planning table.

The first place you’ll hear about a breaking crisis is on social media. With the right tools and the right people in place you can spot an issue early, and react fast.

Social media is not adequately represented on the crisis team, and it is often an afterthought to the strategic communications plan.

On social media, you are talking directly to the people affected by it. Depending on the severity of the crisis, your social media team could be dealing with an angry mob, with grieving relatives or with victims of a crime.

Your team will have to cope with an overwhelming volume of posts and they’ll need to have the confidence to cope under pressure, and to adapt your crisis plan to fit a social media audience.

How ready are you for a crisis?

No brand is immune from a crisis. According to Forrester (2018), 50 percent of Fortune 100 companies have suffered from one in the last three years.  

Some brands feel unprepared to face one. The sheer volume and pace of posts on social media can be overwhelming. It can feel more like a battlefield than a communication channel.

Crisis maturity modelling

We use a proprietary maturity model to plot how prepared you are against industry standards and best practice. This includes analysing your reputation on social media, what purpose you want social media to play in a crisis (and who you’ll be talking to), how social-ready your plan is, and where there are gaps to fill, in order to get you ready.

Before the crisis breaks: planning and preparation

Identify the risk

Spend some time identifying the risks associated with social media communications and add them to your plan.

Structure the team

Your social media team should be at the heart of your planning process and be the ‘spokes’ empowered to capitalise on that goodwill during it.

Escalation processes

You need clear lines of responsibility from who calls a crisis to who you call at 3am when the it’s breaking.

Socialise your crisis plan

Have a clear strategy for which channels you will include in your communications, and what your approach should be for each. 

Ensure employees know their responsibility

Everyone should understand what their role is, so no-one is caught by surprise.

Early warning system to spot a crisis

A social listening and analytics tool can give you data across all your different channels to tell you what’s going on.

Know what ‘normal’ looks like

For a utility company, a high number of negative posts might be normal. The same number for a fashion brand could indicate the beginnings of a crisis.

During the crisis

Hit the right tone

Your audiences will see right through any attempt to mask the truth, or to carefully word a statement to avoid taking responsibility.

The importance of empathy and creating genuine human connections

Think about how that statement is going to sound when you communicate it directly to someone who’s been affected.

The key to success during a crisis

Practise, practise, practise. We use simulation to rehearse your teams, so that the best response becomes instinctive.

Prepare to deal with abuse

It’s commonplace to deal with threats and abusive language on social media, and your team will need support to cope. Look after them.

Coping with volume

You should expect the volume of posts you’re dealing with to increase significantly after it breaks. Plan accordingly.

Regular check-ins with the wider crisis team

Regular reporting on insights from your social listening tool will help you spot trends, or emerging issues.


After it’s over

It can be tempting after it’s over to sit back and let the relief wash over you.

Was your strategy clearly executed and communicated on social media? How has your reputation stood up to the crisis? And what were the overriding impressions that your public audiences are left with?

Post-crisis analysis can give you insight into what happened and it can help you improve for next time.