Education PR - Public Relations for Edtech

Using Social Media for Crisis Communications

Recently, I attended Social Media Boot Camp, hosted by Ragan Communications. The all-day workshop focused on many aspects of social media, including its role in crisis communications. In a world of instant communication, it’s crucial to have a crisis communications plan that includes social media, and addresses the chain of command (i.e., who will respond, on what networks, etc.).

With the growth of social networks, citizen journalism is altering the media landscape. Anyone with a mobile phone or camera can record an event, post the results to Twitter or Facebook, and share breaking news. Take Janis Krums for example – while traveling on a nearby passenger ferry, he used Twitpic to publish the first photo of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River, and subsequently was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Photography.

With easy access to social media, customers increasingly are in charge of your brand, and they’ll talk about you, both pro and con, whether or not you’re engaged. Why not take a proactive approach and interact with your audience?

crisis-communications1Building a presence on social networks like Twitter and Facebook allows you to humanize your company/brand, build customer relationships, and respond quickly during a crisis. Customers need to know they’re being listened to – making your company available online, especially during a crisis, will ease frustration and help calm their fears. In return, you’ll grow customer loyalty.

But, be aware that no matter how active and engaging you are in social media, crises will occur. Don’t be driven by fear. Be open, candid and transparent. Above all, people appreciate honesty and a quick response.

When considering social media as part of your crisis communications plan, align your messages to give all departments and employees a better understanding of company policies and procedures. With pertinent information, employees can communicate effectively with customers and draw immediate response.

If your industry is highly regulated, or confidential information is involved, candor is essential. Confidentiality agreements may keep you quiet, but it’s okay to share why you need to be candid. Respond to the community – let them know you understand their frustrations and are working to resolve the issue.  Addressing a problem directly is always beneficial, even if you can’t share the details.

After establishing your company’s online presence, have you developed a crisis plan that includes social media? What’s your procedure for dealing with negativity?