Monday, December 28, 2009
Five Social Media Crisis Communications Tips
When I speak to groups about Social Media and Crisis Communications, I tell people that you can't set up your Twitter account when the building's on fire. Passenger train operator Eurostar learned this lesson the hard way this week. Eurostar put off claiming its name on Twitter 2009, opting instead for other Social Media initiatives under the Twitter handle "Little_Break".
Great plan until five Eurostar trains got trapped in the tunnel that runs under the English Channel. More than 2,000 passengers were trapped for the better part of a day. Thousands more had their travel disrupted. The company had to rely on a Twitter account set up for a marketing promotion. That slowed the response and allowed anger to build.
When USAirways 1549 ditched into the Hudson River, pictures taken by mobile phones were going around the Internet before US Airways knew it had a plane down. The Age of Social Media means you most likely won't be first with information. Your advantage is that you have access to more credible information than the average Tweep on the Street. It is only an advantage, however, if you get that information out.
Employees Need Guidance
During the awful shootings at Fort Hood this year, a soldier sent out dozens of Tweets that contained inaccurate information, and even took a picture of a wounded soldier with her cellphone and posted posted it on TwitPic. As worldwide newsmedia started to follow her on Twitter she became a prime source of misinformation coming from the locked-down base. She gained hundreds of followers that afternoon. And then sent a note out to them to "stop following" her. She said her "Tweets are for (her) friends." She had no idea the whole world could see what she was saying. Make sure your organization's Social Media policy lets employees know what's expected of them. Don't have a Social Media policy? Social Media Governance has an archive of more than 100 company's policies.
Monitoring what is being said about your company during a crisis is critical to defend and maintain your reputation. There are plenty of monitoring tools that can help you find out in real-time what is being said about your company. Successful crisis communications in the Social Media age requires 24/7 real-time monitoring. A search for "social media monitoring" on Google will give you all the info you need for monitoring tools, many of which are free.
Don't Forget the Basics
All of the basic crisis communications fundamentals still apply. You have to understand who your audience is; you need to respond rapidly with clear, concise messages demonstrating compassion and competence. Social media is an additional tool for you to use to connect with the people important to you during a crisis, it doesn't change the fundamentals required for success.
What would you add to the list?
These five tips aren't all inclusive, nor will doing all of them guarantee success in a crisis. There are a lot of variables that make for a successful response. What would you add to the list? What's worked for you? What didn't?
The more we all learn from each other, the fewer painful lessons we will have to learn on our own.