Lack of Focus Hurts Social Media Crisis Management Efforts

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    people laughing and talking about social media crisis

    It helps to stick to the familiar ground when it comes to social media crisis management

    Our friend and colleague Chris Syme published a blog post last month in which she explained why spreading your social media crisis messaging too thin can be a major problem. This issue seems to pop up most often when organizations attempt their own crisis management without consulting an expert, but there are some in our field who are guilty of taking on too many communication channels in a misguided effort to get the word out as well.

    This quote from Chris’ post cuts right to the heart of the matter:

    Stay within your established platforms. This is the most important guiding principle to remember. For instance, if you have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a YouTube channel, and an Instagram account, stick to those channels when planning any kind of crisis responses. This is where your fans are and this is where your detractors will want to voice their opinions.

    There are several reasons for doing this but the most obvious is that a crisis is not the time to build an audience or plan strategy for a new channel. Objectives are different in a crisis than in everyday social media. Your goals should be two-fold: reach the widest audience and enlist advocates who will help you spread the message. Second, every channel you post on, you have to monitor.

    Think of your resources, personnel, and time. Third, you don’t have to answer every negative post that pops up on every channel. You’ll be playing whack-a-mole. Stick to the channels where you have established a fan base, and enlist your advocates to help you amplify your message. Use scheduling and amplification tools, but don’t try to build a presence on a new channel during a crisis.

    From a crisis management standpoint, the major reason we encourage clients to establish a presence and stay active on social media is to A) create an active communications channel that has a publicly viewable history of your attitude and actions and B) build the cushion of goodwill that Chris refers to when she says, “Stick to the channels where you have established a fan base, and enlist your advocates to help you amplify your message.”

    While there is no set formula for determining the best channels to utilize, we suggest you ask the following questions:

    1. What medium will best reach the client’s stakeholders?
    2. What medium currently features negative information about the client?
    3. Where do you already have active advocates and a cushion of goodwill established?

    Just going through this short list should seriously narrow down options for almost every crisis situation, freeing up valuable resources, and, even more important when you have a breaking crisis, TIME, to handle business.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also the editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]