It’s amazing how many organisations eschew social media as an important crisis communication channel. Maybe because their organisation isn’t big on using social media in day-to-day business; or because top management aren’t personally particularly au fait with Twitter, Facebook, etc; or perhaps they’re nervous about the risks of encouraging negative comments in a public forum from those with an axe to grind. Even amongst organisations that have embraced social media in business as usual, many still don’t consider it a key channel for crisis communication.
Their crisis communication plans will almost certainly acknowledge the importance of, and include references to, ‘traditional’ media channels, such as TV, radio and print, and recognise that most of the traditional news outlets also publish online on their websites. But they often ignore, or even deliberately discourage, the use of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, despite the potential opportunities they offer.
But look at it this way. Firstly, even if you don’t really ‘do’ social media, many, many other people do, including your key stakeholders. Secondly, recent surveys suggest that around half of people now consume their news via social media and, whilst traditional news media is far from dead yet, it’s certainly not in the ascendancy. So if you’re only focussed on traditional media channels, or worse, avoiding them too, you’re missing a huge opportunity to get your message across and allowing others to fill the void. And, by the way, the traditional media outlets get much of their news from social media these days.
Clearly it’s important to think through how best to use social media to your advantage. For instance, you could use it just to point stakeholders to your preferred sources of information, such as your website or a helpline. Or you could get your spokespeople to record short, informative video clips and post them on your social media channels, which helps you to get on the front foot and which, incidentally, are likely to be picked up and used by the traditional media as it saves them a job. And, as with all things crisis or incident management, you should rehearse these plans in your exercises.
Social media isn’t going away any time soon. And, whether you like it or not, in the event of a crisis it will almost certainly be used to talk about you. So doesn’t it make sense to be part of that conversation rather than keeping your social media distance?
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We can help you to understand the advantages and pitfalls of using social media in a crisis and rehearse your social media crisis communication activities in a realistic and risk-free environment, utilising ‘Splutter‘, a self contained social media simulation platform.