Crisis Communication Best Practices Changing Rapidly with Rise of Social Media

Social media use, especially by major corporations and people in power, is having a major impact on crisis management.

data security methods, crisis communication, social media monitoring

This Friday, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. Whether you voted for him or not, you have to admit that his communication style is different. His blunt approach aside, the one thing that has defined his communication style is his use of Twitter. Because of who he is, his tweets have received huge attention and scrutiny.

But the rise of social media had had a profound effect on communication in general and on crisis communication in particular. Assembling a crisis management plan, strategizing a response and carefully managing avenues of communicating that response is no longer viable in the world of Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and other social platforms. Communication can now be immediate and often without coordination or filter.

Trump’s use of Twitter has had the phones ringing off the hook in many crisis communications firms with inquiries from companies and individuals looking for advice on how to respond. Today, companies and famous individuals need to be prepared for a high-profile tweet. There is no time to deliberate over a response or to wait until the incident fades away.

Historically, companies turned to crisis communication firms or their own internal teams when an executive committed fraud, their product or service injured people or made them sick, or the company was involved in some other type of scandal. Some companies even had thick crisis communication manuals in cases of emergency.

That methodology worked well until social media upset the apple cart. Major companies’ crisis communications strategies now involve quickly defending the decisions it makes and often doing it in 140 characters. And there is no way of predicting what may go viral.

Social media has added overwhelming complexity to crisis communications. Multiple channels, user-level control of messaging and real-time delivery make things far tougher to manage than the press releases and conferences of old. The key is for companies to adapt and use social media effectively in their crisis communication strategies. Here are five crucial considerations for your crisis plan:

Remember communication basics.

  • Honesty, candor and openness
  • Collaborate with reliable resources
  • Show concern and empathy

Incorporate social media into crisis planning and response.

  • Use social media in drills
  • Train all authorized communicators in the effective use of social media

Social media doesn’t touch the masses.

  • Statistics show that only 23 percent of adults use Twitter
  • Only 2 percent of one’s Twitter followers see a tweet
  • Social media is a resource, not a mass communication tool

Companies must monitor social media and the Internet.

  • Resources are available to provide this service
  • Vet providers carefully, as some are more effective than others

Do what’s right for your company’s size and industry.

  • Most companies are not General Motors, nor do they have unlimited resources
  • When incorporating social media into crisis communication planning, carefully define the particular needs of the company
  • Keep it simple; don’t overcomplicate the process

Social media will continue to evolve, as will its effect on crisis communication and response. As of now, the media is fascinated with Trump’s use of Twitter as a communication style. The key for any company’s crisis communication plan is to be aware of social media’s impact and incorporate it into all crisis management planning.

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