Crisis Social Media Planning: Your Fans and You

Published: March 3, 2019  by 

Far too many brands don’t concern themselves with a crisis until they have one on their doorstep. With the ever-increasing microscope of social media amplifying bad situations and making them worse by the second, this means by the time you have a situation brewing, it may already be too late. The brands that do have a crisis plan for publicity often don’t include social media-specific planning because social is so commonplace now, it’s taken for granted.

Well, it’s not safe to assume anything, and some bad press can become a global catastrophe for a major brand (we’re looking at you, United Airlines, Doritos, and most recently, Gucci). We’re not talking about a campaign not working and falling flat. Woah no. We’re talking a brand equity-ruining, sales-flattening, stock-killing PR crisis that becomes a career-ender for everyone. You need a crisis social media plan that works underneath your overall strategy, but one that also can stand on its own.

When building a plan, you first need to follow the tenets of your main brand strategy. Identify scenarios that are both the best and worst things that can happen for your company. This goes for every medium your brand uses, or every social network your audience lives on. Here are a few quick essentials to get you started on your way to serenity.

Crisis Team – Assemble!

Putting together an internal team of planning stakeholders is crucial for your brand voice in a crisis. Key owners of brand pillars, PR, social media, and other operatives who need to have a say on messaging should be part of the process. Each member of the team can have ownership of their own area, but also contribute to and make certain other areas interface with their own properly. This is a key first step.

If You Don’t Build It, They Will Come Anyway

Building a Social Media Crisis Policy is the thing here. Consider all the brand elements for your reputation, such as legal issues, copyright and IP guidelines, customer privacy, product and service failures, and outages, and the tone of your brand voice at all times. You have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario, even if it never comes. While you can’t conceive of every possible problem that may come up for your brand ethically and legally, it’s important when forming the plan to consider every outcome as possible at all times, kind of like a social media Machiavelli!

Hello, From the Outside

Using social media listening tools to understand up-to-the-minute customer sentiment is crucial. Listening to your audience at all times helps you perceive negative sentiment, understand client pain, and detect viral sentiment (negative or otherwise) as it happens, not after the fact. In addition to tons of options for great social media and digital landscape listening tools (we’re quite partial to Sprout Social), you can build routine checks on all of your socials as part of your plan to gauge how your audience is feeling about the brand.

Enhance your calm

Keep calm and always respond in real time. One of the worst mistakes a brand can make is going full ostrich and putting your head in the sand. Although you need to have your entire team in lock-step unison on messaging, you can’t rush out too soon with posts to answer customer pain. Learning to take enough time to create strong, on-brand messaging to help with a situation is crucial, but answering too soon with the wrong messaging is worse.

Good News Can Also Cause Stress

Have a response plan for when you have good news too! Sometimes a really great story, campaign, or award can drive tremendous attention to your channels, too. Fans like to be acknowledged and encouraged to share that news, and if they feel ignored, they might find your brand apathetic compared with say, Wendy’s, who will tweet at anyone and everyone. Have a contingency plan when there’s great news to share to at least jump in the conversation with fans part of the time.