Life often throws us curveballs, events that seem to come out of nowhere. Whether you are an individual or a business, social media can be used to help mitigate any problem. However, if used incorrectly, social media can make a bad situation even worse. Ready.gov stresses the importance of having a crisis communication plan by saying,
“A business must be able to respond promptly, accurately and confidently during an emergency in the hours and days that follow. Many different audiences must be reached with information specific to their interests and needs. The image of the business can be positively or negatively impacted by public perceptions of the handling of the incident.” In my opinion, the good of social media outweighs the bad.
Gone are the days of news organizations, advertisers, and the like, simply pushing out their respective messages. The buzzword is conversation in society today. Social media allows for a two-way communication to take place, between organizations and their key publics. When a public relations problem plagues a company, it must learn how to act right away. We live in a 24/7 world, with information being accessible at our fingertips. Social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, allow for organizations to respond in real-time addressing any concerns should they arise.
Social media also encourages citizens to become ‘journalists’. News is immediate. Stories often appear on sites such as Twitter, before they are even picked up by larger media outlets. Recently, police depended on technology for any clues during the search for the suspects involved in the Boston Marathon bombings.
PR News provides six key tips on how to use social media effectively in crisis communications:
- Commit to a policy for employee use of social media, and communicate it to everyone.
- Trust your staff to be your allies in crisis situations and empower them to help spread your message.
- Be prepared for both managed, controlled messages and unplanned, uncontrolled ones. Have separate strategies for each.
- Get ready to enter into a dialogue with both your employees and your audience. It’s what social media is all about and, when handled properly, can turn negative comments into positive ones.
- Be honest in your communications—it really is the best policy and the best aid to recovery.
- Focus on the impression you will leave with your audience and use this to guide your communications.
A crisis communication plan must consider the relationships that the organization currently has and what can be done to maintain them. If an organization is honest and follows the tips listed above, it will walk away with greater respect in the eyes of the people.