Social Media Crisis Communications: Preparing for, Preventing, and Surviving a Public Relations #FAIL, is with my editors at Que. It is in the finally editing stages. It has been a journey and I’ve learned a lot during the process. It has clarified my thought process. While this post isn’t about my book, it is about awareness. It is about not knee-jerking responses to situations. (Though I’d love you to click on the book link and pre-order my book… just saying.)
As I was finishing up the book, the Instagram User Content scandal broke. I had to include it in a book, so I went about writing about the situation in the chapter about sharing examples of social media challenged  organizations. As I researched, wrote, and digested the situation, I realized it didn’t belong in that chapter, but instead the chapter on positive examples of handling a social media meltdown. I won’t go into why I thought so… you’ll have to read the book for that.
I will say I had knee-jerked my reaction. I took off my social media blinkers while writing about Instagram in that chapter. The sphere of social media can be a very closed one where the need to blog about it first often rules getting there without really fully processing the situation at hand. First isn’t often better. Being well-informed is. And often being well-informed and social media aren’t put in the same sentence. Part of successful crisis communications response to a social media meltdown is to have all of the facts before you take action. Have full context of the situation.
While the response cycle has shorten greatly thanks to social media, you still can have an informed response during a meltdown. Sounding like a broken record, but a good start in managing a crisis is to have a solid crisis communications plan in place and drilled on with your crisis response team. And having a good listening program running is key to getting the full picture… that includes understanding the situation in context.
Before you act, you need to ask the following questions:
What is the crisis?
When did the situation begin?
Why has it occurred?
Who is affected?
What are our options?
From there you can determine the key audiences, communication goals and appropriate communication timing. Then you can move to draft key message points, gather necessary background information/supporting documentation, and what are the channels to share your response. Remember your key message points need to be written for the specific channels. Now you can begin communicating those key messages via the chosen channels in an informed way.
So take off the social media blinkers. The view will be very different and your prospective will change allowing you to make better decisions and respond smartly to situations presented.
Image credit:  jypl1008
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Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR, is an accredited public relations professional with over a decade experience bridging the gap between traditional public relations and emerging technologies. Need help reaching your business’s customers, call 302.563.992 to schedule an initial consultation, or contact Mind The Gap Public Relations.

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