Five Best Ways to Use Social Media in a Corporate Crisis

August 7 2023

In today’s digital age, social media plays a significant role in shaping public opinion, spreading information rapidly and influencing brand perception. When a crisis occurs – whether it’s a product recall, a disgruntled employee or any other type of emergency – social media monitoring serves a crucial role in a comprehensive crisis communications plan.

Navigating social media in a corporate crisis situation can be challenging and requires a thoughtful and strategic approach. Remember, you cannot always avoid the crisis, but you can control how you respond. Staying calm, honest and empathetic will go a long way in mitigating the impact and rebuilding trust with your audience. Depending on the nature of the crisis, certain social media platforms may be more suitable than others. Use the platforms most relevant to your audience so you can address the issue where it is already being discussed.

crisis management in social mediaConsumers are more likely to support a company that handles crises responsibly and transparently. Social media is a valuable tool to help corporations stay informed, respond effectively, protect their brand reputation and learn from the experience to better handle future crises. Here are some guidelines to help you utilize social media to your advantage during a crisis:

Respond Quickly

In a crisis, time is of the essence. With the prevalence of social media, rumors and misinformation can spread quickly. Acknowledge the issue as soon as possible, so your audience is reassured that the situation is being addressed. Prompt and effective crisis management can help mitigate the negative impacts of the crisis and maintain the company’s reputation, stability and long-term success.

A quick response also helps to shape the narrative and control the information that is being circulated. The longer you wait, the greater the risk of others spreading damaging falsehoods and speculating about the situation without having all of the facts. Develop a personalized statement that aligns with your crisis communications plan and upholds your company’s values. Conflicting messages will only create confusion and foster uncertainty, so ensure that your team consistently conveys the same sentiment in their communication efforts.

Your brand’s social media platforms will likely draw more eyes and engagement in a crisis situation, so it’s imperative to post strategically during this time. Evaluate your upcoming social media content and avoid posts that may be viewed as insensitive or inappropriate. Reputations are built on relationships and communication, so apologize if appropriate to maintain trust with your audience. Crises also tend to attract a negative influx of comments and questions on your social media posts, which can be tricky. Your response could fuel the flames, and in some instances, no response is best. The decisions are mostly on a case-by-case basis. However, you should always acknowledge those impacted by this crisis and provide swift reassurance that the situation will be remedied.

Monitor Social Media

It helps to know what people are saying about you on social media so you can do some damage control. Keep an eye on all social media platforms for mentions of your brand with social media listening tools to track conversations and sentiment. Doing this will help you understand the climate around the situation and the nature of the crisis. It can also give you a better understanding of the level of exposure, identify any potential legal risks and ensure compliance with relevant laws and guidelines.

By monitoring and identifying misinformation, companies are better equipped to quell rumors before an inaccurate story gains traction and prevent further damage to their reputation. Tracking crisis coverage may also provide you with valuable time to communicate the latest developments with your employees and prepare them in case the situation escalates. In a crisis, avoid using automated responses. Personalized and human responses are essential to show genuine concern.

If you’re unsure of your next step, bear in mind that crisis situations can affect an entire industry, not just one corporation. Monitoring social media enables companies to gain valuable insights into how their competitors are handling the crisis or have handled a similar crisis and adapt their own strategies accordingly.

Share Your Plan of Action Internally and Externally

Sharing a plan of action demonstrates transparency and shows that your company is willing to be open about its response to the crisis. This transparency can help build trust among stakeholders, including customers, employees, investors and the general public. Be honest about the extent of the issue and the steps you are taking to address it.

Employees should be kept informed of the company’s intentions as the crisis may affect their jobs, work processes and overall well-being.

Communicating a plan of action gives employees a sense of direction and stability in challenging times, which can positively impact morale and productivity.

During a crisis, stakeholders are often anxious and look to company leaders for reassurance. Sharing a well-thought-out plan will help to reduce their uncertainty. It will also convey that your brand is taking the crisis seriously and has a strategy to mitigate its impact. This can help prevent panic and alleviate concerns about your company’s future.

To carry out your strategic plan, designate a team responsible for managing social media during the crisis. The team can be made up of staff from various departments so you can examine the crisis from different angles and viewpoints. Ensure that everyone is aware of their roles and responsibilities.

Communication across all social media channels must be consistent and align with your crisis communication plan to be truly effective. Keep the public informed with regular updates on the situation’s progress, any actions taken to resolve it and the steps your company is taking to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Encourage Customers to Share Positive Stories

Positive testimonials act as social proof for potential customers who might be hesitant to try a product or service during a crisis. When they see others sharing their positive experiences, it can increase their confidence in the company and reduce their perceived risk. It also does a great job of pushing down the negative reports and bringing the good back to the forefront.

Don’t sit around waiting for good news to present itself. An effective public relations strategy means going out and looking for impactful stories to highlight. It means finding ways to feature all the good you are doing, have done or will do and making sure the news reaches the right audience.

Testimonials also humanize brands and solidify the connection to the customer experience. They show that the company is not just a faceless entity but one that genuinely cares about its customers and is committed to meeting their needs even during challenging times.

Evaluate Your Own Social Media Responses Post-Crisis

During a crisis, different social media channels might be used to address the situation. A post-crisis review will help assess which platforms were most effective for crisis communication and whether any channels need to be added or removed from the strategy.

Once the crisis has been resolved, evaluate your brand’s crisis communications social media strategy to learn from your experiences, improve your approach and strengthen your social media presence to be better prepared for any future challenges. This critical part of crisis management should include a thorough analysis of your social media responses and can provide valuable lessons and feedback to improve your crisis management plan.

Understanding how the crisis affected your audience’s perception of your brand is also crucial as it reveals valuable insights into the sentiment surrounding your company. These insights allow your brand to tailor its social media content and engagement to rebuild trust. A post-crisis review can also include a competitive analysis to show how your company’s social media strategy performed during the crisis as compared to your competitors. Understanding the industry landscape and how others responded can offer valuable insights to develop an ever-evolving crisis communications strategy.

Key Takeaways

In the last few years, social media has become a more prevalent news source for younger generations. And with platforms specifically designed to share information at the touch of a button, companies should be mindful that the potential for a story to go viral is always lurking. This shift conveys the significance social media platforms possess beyond sharing content. In addition to marketing efforts, these platforms contain versatile tools and functionality that can be extremely effective when mitigating a crisis. When you incorporate these practices into your brand’s strategic crisis communications plan, social media has the power to swiftly repair trust and minimize damage to your brand’s reputation.

Natalie Ghidotti
CEO, Ghidotti
Natalie Ghidotti, APR, is principal of Ghidotti, a public relations and content marketing agency she founded in 2007 and has since grown to serve a wide range of clients, including some of the region’s best-known brands. Before joining the public relations world in 2004, Natalie served as special publications editor-in-chief at Arkansas Business Publishing Group, where she was editor of Little Rock Family, Arkansas Bride, Little Rock Guest Guide and other magazines for five years. Natalie is a past president of the Arkansas Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, serves on the Executive Committee for PRSA National’s Counselors Academy and has been a speaker for several PRSA International Conferences. She was honored with the Crystal Award from PRSA Arkansas recognizing lifetime achievements in the PR industry.

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