Social Media is here to stay and that means it needs to be part of your crisis communications plans. Lately, I've been spending a lot of time working with clients to help them do just that. I thought I would share three Social Media techniques/ideas that I think will become standard issue during a crisis.
Many companies use pre-approved initial releases in crisis communications plan. This works because it allows for quick action that requires very little thinking. Applying the concept to Social Media is a good idea. Not only can it cut response time, but it lets your bosses know the space in which you will operate during a crisis. Here's a version of a pre-approved Tweet:
Put Your Twitter Feed on Your Home Page
Another option would be to put a crawl on the top of your Website (much like the cable news sites and many local news stations do). This, again, gets you into the information flow early; it can be automated and is easier to implement than a full dark site. I know there are some companies that will resist the idea of making the crisis front and center on their Website, but in a crisis people are coming because it is front and center. People perceive lack of information as a lack of caring.
Get the Boss on Video, Post it on YouTube
It used to be that you wanted the initial release of the event on the streets in an hour and that included a quote from the CEO or appropriate executive. Now people want to see the CEO or appropriate executive engaged in the crisis. One guideline I saw, but lost the link but it said you need to get the boss on video posted to the Web within three hours of the incident. As with most things in a crisis, the timing will vary. Sooner is better. Toyota is so pathetically late to its sudden acceleration crisis the video is more about damage control than taking charge.
To do the "boss video" well in a crisis, you have to write it into your crisis plan and practice it during a crisis exercise. That means really putting the boss on video and showing him how it looks. That will allow you to work out the logistics. Do you need a crew on-call? Or do you need a Flip Camera? It's your choice, but choose before the crisis hits.
Social Media is not a fad and it's not just for marketing. Social Media is a collection of new communications tools and platforms that are already in wide use. More than a billion people worldwide use Social Media regularly.
You can have the best crisis comms plan in the world, but if it lacks a Social Media component the world will get its information about your crisis from someone else.