The tragic events of April 15, 2013 at the Boston Marathon will forever be embedded in our memory. As we struggled to process the senseless tragedy, we also faced the reality of doing business in a real time world.
To keep up with the demand for content generation, many businesses use scheduling services. In normal times, these tools allow us to maximize productivity and efficiently use our resources. However, the afternoon of April 15 was not normal and “business as usual” status updates on social media networks were quickly called out by fans and followers.
Communication failures were in abundance as automated posts, tweets, newsletters and updates quickly became ill-timed and insensitive. While fans and followers knew that the updates were pre-scheduled, they held little tolerance for not taking action to stop them.
While many business owners have crisis communication plans in place, few have a policy for handling communications when the crisis is external to their business. Whether you have a team of one or 100, a documented policy can help you avoid social media backlash when events beyond your control interrupt regularly scheduled programming. Below are 7 tips that can help you protect your brand during and after a crisis.
Know where and how your content is published. This may seem obvious but today we may employ a bevy of content management services. In a crisis we may overlook things that are on autopilot such as services like paper.li or automatic feed services such as Twitterfeed. Having a checklist will help you or a designated representative quickly take action when needed.
Stay in touch. In order to respond to a crisis you have to know that it is happening. Set up alerts on your mobile devices or email services so that you are in the loop in the event of breaking news. This can be as simple as allowing push notifications from a news app or subscribing to breaking news alerts from a media channel.
Have a plan. Whether you run a solo business or large enterprise, it is important to have a documented policy for handling communications during and post-crisis. Solo and small businesses can tap virtual admins or outsourced vendors to help manage the process.
Evaluate your services. In search of that one service that does it all, many of us are guilty of using multiple services to accomplish our goals. I personally use multiple services to distribute social communications. I balance programmed messages with real time sharing. When you need to bulk pause programming however, simplicity can make you rethink your strategy. For example, bufferapp made it easy to simply pause an entire day with one click, while other services required editing individual messages one by one. Review the services you use with an eye on not only how they work day to day but how they will serve you in the event of a crisis.
Take a pause. During a crisis, interrupt your regular programming. Pause automated posts, updates and e-communications. You do not want to risk the backlash of your audience during a time when emotions and awareness are running high. It is far better to adjust your scheduling and assess when it is appropriate to resume normal communications.
Acknowledge. When a major event happens like the Boston Marathon bombing, a simple acknowledgement shows that you are human. If you continue to participate in the conversation surrounding the tragedy, be careful to offer relevant information. For example, if you are a child psychologist it would be appropriate and helpful to share information on how to talk to your children about the tragedy. Remember, however, that it is not the time to be self-promotional, offer help if you can and if not don’t be afraid to acknowledge the tragedy and go dark.
Do a post-crisis review. Before resuming your normal communication review your message and language carefully. A tragedy has a way of changing the way we receive certain words and phrases. Make sure that your messaging aligns with the new reality. In the hours and even days following a crisis, monitor your audience. Have they resumed normal communications? Your audience will tell you when it is okay to go back to business as usual.
Bonus Tip: There is never an appropriate time for an off topic, irrelevant or plain insensitive pitch or communication. Resist the urge to use tragedy to pimp your irrelevant messaging.
Do you have any tips to add to the list? Feel free to share them in the comments!