Social Media Is Powerful. Messages Can Spread Like Wildfire.

You probably recently received numerous messages on Facebook messenger telling you not to accept any new friend requests from that person; that it isn’t them. You probably also saw a slough more of posts saying the same thing in your news feed. We even saw a handful of people saying they’re deleting messenger so that they don’t get their profile duplicated. And in less than 24 hours, we all learned that this is, in fact, a hoax and that by people sharing these posts and information, they are spreading the wildfire of fear and making the problem seem real.

So in taking this small example of how fast and far social media messages can spread, consider how social media impacts your business; especially if there is a crisis within your organization.

We can talk about expert tips from a national PR professional on how to handle a crisis over social media involving their business. Jennifer Vickery is the CEO of National Strategies Public Relations.

Here are some tips she can share:

How would your organization handle a similar type of social media wildfire situation if it was regarding your institution? Would you have a plan in place to manage the spreading messages and fear, concern and potentially false information?

That’s why we advocate every organization have a crisis plan in place; before the crisis. Developing a program during an emergency is an arena no one should find themselves in.

Here are some initial tips to make sure you’re social media crisis ready:

1. Assign a communications point-person. Having a central command person in charge of messaging, responding, fielding inquiries and overall delivery of the crisis plan is the way to go. This ensures that the message isn’t able to be delivered differently by numerous people and keeps the quality of the response optimal.

2. Have a crisis committee. Handling a social media crisis-turned-wildfire is no feat to be managed alone. Have the committee meet regularly and year-round. Talk about roles and responsibilities during a potential crisis as well as timeframes. Will someone take certain shifts responding to messages over social media so that there is no lag in time?

3. Develop messages ahead of time. You don’t want prepared or ‘canned’ messages, like, ‘We apologize for your frustration.’ but having a framework of the types of messaging, tone of voice, response time, etc. will be important. Planned messages can be something like, ‘our organization will respond within five minutes of a message involving crisis, with a warm tone of voice that includes the issue to ensure it sounds genuine, etc. Make sure if a social crisis does happen, that messages sound ‘human,’ empathetic, and most of all, genuine.

4. Develop types of crisis or risks. Crisis can be weather, information, data-breach, customer satisfaction, accounting, employee and virtually any other related issue. Knowing your main areas of vulnerability and discussing them will help ensure you can be ahead of the situation versus surprised and left with figuring out what to do during the crisis.

5. Document your plan and have it readily available. A few years ago, it was customary to have crisis plans printed and bound in bright orange or red binders so that it is easily accessible. This strategy still holds as good advice today since any crisis can affect computers, therefore, storing your plan solely on the cloud might be putting your action-plan at risk. However, also including your information in a shared and secure folder that can be easily updated and viewed by the committee is also a great practice to implement.

If you ever second-guessed the impact of potential crisis over social media and your organization, take the Facebook hoax example as a great lesson on how fast things can spread. Ensuring your organization is prepared ahead of time is key to combating any crisis and coming through positively in the long-run.

Jennifer Vickery

Jennifer Vickery

Jennifer Vickery is CEO/President of National Strategies Public Relations and is considered a PR Media Expert in her field. She advises organizations and professionals on public relations efforts and campaigns with an emphasis on Crisis Management. National Strategies Public Relations (NSPR) is a national public relations agency based in Tampa, Florida. For more information, visit nspublicrelations.com or call (813) 865-3093.