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Staying calm under fire: Tips for managing social media during a crisis

The rapid spread of information on social media can also amplify a crisis, possibly damaging a brand's reputation that they've worked hard to build. Whether it's a public relations nightmare, a product recall, or a controversy involving someone on the executive team, staying calm under fire and effectively managing social media during a crisis is so important for long-term trust with your audience.

So, what should a social media manager do?

Be prepared for a crisis

The best way to handle a crisis is to be prepared before it happens. It is so worth it to develop a comprehensive crisis communication plan that includes detailed strategies for addressing various crises. In this plan, you can identify potential scenarios, establish key messaging, and designate a crisis management team responsible for executing the plan (think beyond just communicators - who would need to be involved to approve messaging?). Taking this proactive approach will empower you to respond swiftly and consistently if/when a crisis does strike.

Establish a centralized communication hub

During a crisis, ensure that all communication flows through a central place so all communicators are on the same page. You want your media spokesperson, social media manager, internal comms folks, and anyone else involved to share the same points. This approach helps prevent miscommunication, maintains consistency, and avoids the spread of conflicting information.

Monitor and practice social media listening

To effectively manage a crisis on social media, you must monitor the situation closely. This is a great argument for using social listening tools to track conversations, mentions, and ongoing sentiment (positive vs. negative vs. neutral) related to your brand. As the social media manager, you can actively engage with your audience to address concerns, answer questions, and correct misinformation. This active engagement demonstrates your commitment to transparency with your customers and can help diffuse tensions.

Respond quickly but thoughtfully

Speed is crucial on social media. We know this. However, quick responses should not come at the expense of careful and considerate messages. Take the time to understand the situation, gather accurate information, and craft well-thought-out responses. Even if your initial response acknowledges the issue and promises to provide updates, that can be enough. It shows that you are taking the situation seriously and that keeping the audience informed is a priority for your company.

Show empathy and compassion

A crisis often impacts people on a personal level. Demonstrating empathy and compassion can go a long way in diffusing tension and building goodwill - in a crisis and ALL the time. Use your social media platforms to express concern, offer support and convey your commitment to addressing the issue. Remember, people appreciate brands that show a human side, bringing corporate entities down to a relatable place.

Stick to the facts

Rumours and misinformation can spread like wildfire on social media. It’s one of the hardest parts of being a social media manager and working in that space. To avoid contributing to the chaos, stick to verified facts and official statements. Avoid speculating or sharing unverified information, as it can worsen the situation and erode trust. If you need time to gather accurate information (you’re only human!), let your audience know you are working on it and will provide updates as soon as possible.

Acknowledge mistakes and take responsibility

If your brand is at fault in a crisis, it's important to acknowledge your mistakes and take responsibility. Denying culpability or deflecting blame can further damage your reputation. Be upfront about the issue, sincerely apologize, and outline the steps your brand is taking to rectify the situation. Transparency can help rebuild trust and credibility. Remember, make sure your messaging has been cleared/approved with the central communications hub and that all communicators share the same key points.

Stay consistent across all social media platforms

All social media platforms are different and may require tailored approaches. But be careful! The core message within your updates should remain consistent, regardless of which or how many social media platforms you share on. Ensure your messaging is aligned across all channels to avoid confusion or contradictions.

Unfortunately, a crisis can hit at any moment. How you handle these situations on social media can have a lasting impact on your brand's reputation and customer loyalty. You can effectively manage social media during a crisis by staying calm under fire, following a well-prepared crisis communication plan, and employing these valuable tips.

Remember, maintaining transparency, empathy, and authenticity is critical to rebuilding trust and emerging from a crisis with your brand's integrity intact. Need some training to strengthen your approach to social media during a crisis? Let’s talk!


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