18459566_mSocial media platforms offer an invaluable tool for communicating with stakeholders when a crisis strikes—but you need to be prepared.

When an emergency strikes, companies often find themselves on the back foot. The first thing to understand is that when a crisis breaks is not the time to be deciding what to do and how to do it! The protocols and procedures for managing a crisis must be decided and understood before it strikes, and should form part of Business Continuity planning.

One of the most important parts of any crisis management plan is communications. In fact, I would argue that a good crisis communications plan is the primary tool for limiting the damage to the company’s reputation, and for mobilising support for the recovery effort.

We live in a Digital Age in which, almost without exception, everybody has access to the Internet via computers or, increasingly, mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. This always-on connected world is characterised by a surge in the number of social media platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Twitter, WordPress and Tumblrare some of the most common. These platforms host communities of users, and are characterised by content sharing and real-time communication.

They are thus ready-made communication channels through which the company can reach stakeholder groups in a crisis situation. This is crucial when rapid communication in real time is a priority. They also offer a company a useful listening post through which to gauge how fast a crisis is spreading, and what people are saying.

The first thing to do is investigate which social media platforms are most suitable for your company, and where its communities are already posting information. As a rule of thumb, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are most often used in crisis situations.

A final point: set up the company profile on all platforms, even if you don’t use them, so that they are ready to be used in the event of a crisis.

Next time, a look at the importance of planning.

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