Sometimes the learnings come more easily when we roll up our sleeves and work together. At least that was the case for the big group of comms people we gathered for our Crisis Control Learning Lab at the recent Social Media World Forum in London.
The Learning Lab proved a great tool for teasing out top tips for managing a social media crisis. Insights bubbled up as we worked through some really challenging crisis scenarios. Across nine industries and tough scenarios, our ad hoc teams of first responders went to work to diffuse those ‘imaginary’ threats.
We’ve pulled together some of the key takeaways for you here – for your use in the real world:
1. Put your plan in place, and when danger lurks use it
Don’t wait until something goes wrong to think seriously about how to manage a crisis. If you already have a crisis plan in place make sure it includes social risks. If you don’t yet, prioritise getting a plan in place.
Make sure your plan includes:
- What constitutes a serious situation?
- Who is on the crisis team in different functions for different scenarios?
- Lines of escalation and triggers to escalate
- Key stakeholder groups and the people responsible for each
- Who are internal influencers and champions?
- Named external advocates and champions – as well as detractors
- A list of all your social channels and who manages them
- Series of actions and messages appropriate for each stage of the crisis
- Measurement criteria to know when the crisis team can step down
2. Use an early warning system
Social media is on 24/7 – and so should your risk detection and alerting. The sooner the alarm bells ring, the more chance you have to limit any situation from escalating. Put in place the detection you need to alert you to risks as soon as they arise – and make sure someone is checking around the clock. This can help you neutralise issues before they become a crisis, by not letting them escalate in the first place.
3. Don't rush the response, keep calm
It’s essential to remain calm and in control. You need to validate the threat and think through your first response before acting. Remember that not every negative remark requires a public response. Some issues are better handled with direct message or by taking it offline. Knowing when to put the pedal to the metal is imperative, but don’t rush in.
4. Say the right thing, keep it aligned to where you are in the crisis
When you do respond, keep it appropriate to what you know. That may be a simple acknowledgement that something has happened and that you are investigating. This buys you a little time. But as the situation is clarified, honesty and empathy with your audience is crucial. Be truthful, speak from the heart and apologise when that is what’s required.
5. Ensure the message is consistent and be thorough
Look to the plan to make sure that you’re communicating with all of the appropriate stakeholder groups, internally and externally. Make the best use of your advocates and champions to ensure your message remains consistent as it spreads. Aim to have a tiered approach to communications so that your message is cascaded and does not get lost in translation.
6. Measure your success, learn your lessons
What you do once the threat has subsided is just as important. A thorough review of all aspects of the crisis and response will help you home in on the good and the bad of your response. Be sure to circle back to your crisis plan and incorporate those hard won learnings.
Are your social crisis processes and procedures up to scratch? Find out with our free social risk audit.