This was Justine Sacco’s tweet as she boarded an international flight in London. By the time she landed in Cape Town, South Africa, it had reached around the world and her reputation was in tatters. Unfortunately, Ms. Sacco didn’t know what was occurring because she was unable to log into her Twitter account during the flight. This not only delayed her response, she was unable to monitor her social media to discover the problem as it began.
The whole crisis happened to someone who only had 200 followers. Imagine if something like this happened to your brand.
You can’t control everything that appears about your company on social media but once a crisis occurs you need to respond as quickly and effectively as possible. The only way to do that is to prepare a plan that can be implemented as quickly as possible.
Like any good plan, you need to be thorough and include key stakeholders who are involved in the process. Your plan will have several components and required activities, many of which must take place simultaneously. Proper coordination is key.
The most important component in any crisis plan is an open line of communication. Communication between you and other members of the team plus communication between your organization and the public must be as transparent and timely as you can make it.
Component #1: An Internal Crisis Distribution List
Identify who must be notified immediately and the best way to get in touch. Make this the first priority of the crisis management plan. These are the people who are directly responsible for managing the problem; they must have the authority to act.
One member will be a designated Crisis Lead who is capable of selecting relevant stakeholders, assigning roles, and helping the team identify the next steps.
Component #2: Client Consultation
Once the crisis lead has discussed the situation with the crisis management team, it is time to perform a social assessment A social assessment includes an analysis of the legitimacy of the problem and the company’s typical communication with the public across social media.
Component #3: Collaboration with Public Relations and the Legal Team
The social assessment will become the basis for response. PR and the legal team must collaborate with the team to develop the correct messaging for each social media channel and to try to anticipate reactions in the near future. An appropriate response should be formulated for each potential interaction through one-to-many channels and through the one-to-one customer service experience.
Component #4: A Method of Measuring Effectiveness
Without measurement there is no way to know whether the team’s efforts were successful. Identify the key performance indicators that can provide actionable information for ongoing management efforts and to inform future crisis resolution activities.
Build a Team
A social media crisis management team includes both externally facing and internal departments. There are many roles to play and much to get done in a short period of time.
In general you want the following people:
- Social Media Marketing
- Customer Support
- Public Relations
- Security – Cyber and Building
- Managers for messaging approval
- Legal department
Social Media Marketing and Customer Support are key in the communications component. Social media marketing needs to control the story and understand communicating one to many, while customer support is there for anyone needing a one-on-one experience.
Public relations will be able to suggest what can and cannot be said and how the organization should be portrayed in the media and in public. These people should be given in-depth knowledge of the problem because they will be dealing with most of the fall-out.
Security needs to be involved in order to secure your online assets or the people within your office or building. A problem may start with social media but can spill over into hacking your website or posing a physical threat to those you work with.
You will want to consult with the Legal department and get the name of a person to contact in the event the plan ever goes into action. Legal will be a more consultative presence but, along with PR, will deal with any fall-out.
If a manager feels it is necessary to know about the plan, by all means include that person and make sure he or she is kept up to date.
Nobody wants a social media crisis but proper planning can make the best of a situation in case the need arises. Your best defense is a good offense with everyone playing his part. When it is all over, you will be able to breathe a sigh of relief and remain poised in case it ever happens again.