An Amber Alert in Washington this week swept across media outlets like a storm, swapping regular content and commercials with a recorded message alerting all citizens to be on the lookout. Within minutes, thousands of people heard the alert and it was spreading across the airwaves like a wildfire. But this message wasn’t just running on radio and television stations. Social media is being used in a new way to help alert the public to breaking news and is now essential to a public relations crisis communications plan.
Social media is a powerful tool that allows anyone to participate in the conversation surrounding a crisis. In a 24-hour news cycle, the overwhelming volume of information and reactions of the population can be a lot to process. An example is the cloud of panic that formed around Malaysia Airlines surrounding the disappearance of flight 370. When a crisis occurs, a company needs to be prepared to use social media as a tool to monitor the situation, ensure continuity of their business and message, and to disseminate news and updates. Here are three important things to remember when integrating social media into your crisis communications plan.
3 Things to Remember: Social Media and Crisis Communication
- Call Yourself Out
Although it seems counterintuitive to your regular public relations approach, in your crisis communication plan you want to call yourself out on your social media channels. Draw attention to the story so that you become the authority figure on the subject and control the situation as much as possible. You may not want to reply to negative comments, but it is important to address each concern, remaining positive and open.
- Stick to Your Message
When addressing comments on social media, it is important to remain consistent. Do not stray from your crisis communications plan and talking points, even to engage with your audience. It is important that your public relations team portrays a united front to protect your brand.
- Have a Social Media Policy
Crafting a social media policy for your company is a great preventative measure that clearly lays out what is acceptable, and what is not, online. Your employees need to know that they are brand ambassadors for your company and what they say can impact your brand’s reputation. This will make crisis communications easier to manage if all employees know what to say (and what not to!) when entering the social conversation.
Social media is a great way for spreading news, both good and bad. By following these guidelines for integrating social media into your crisis communications plan, you will control the conversation and ensure that your brand’s reputation is protected.
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