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- The evolution of social media in crisis communications - Part Two: When the crisis hits
- The evolution of social media in crisis communications – Part One: Pre-crisis planning
- ASEAN Dengue Day: Island Pharmaceuticals Investor briefing video
- Are you ready for the 2022 Financial Year? What you need to know and trends to watch out for.
Following on from where I left off in Part One of this blog, which looked at the evolution of social media in crisis management and five key steps to prepare your company before a crisis hits, today’s blog deals with strategies to help mitigate damage once an issue has hit.
Five steps for managing social media during a crisis
You were hoping this day wouldn’t come, but unfortunately it has, and your company is now dealing with a crisis situation that has the potential to cause substantial damage. What do you do?
Here are five key steps you should consider taking to successfully manage the narrative on social media and thereby limit the impact on your business.
- Stop all scheduled posts
If there is a hint of a crisis or negative public sentiment building, pause all scheduled posts immediately, advise the relevant social media handlers and begin close online monitoring of the situation. This can prevent your company from looking ignorant, insensitive or uncoordinated.
- Acknowledge the issue and develop messaging
People will expect to hear from you right away and the speed at which you do respond will often shape how the public (and media) perceive your company. Leaving it too late to comment or ignoring a situation altogether will result in negativity around your brand, whereas an immediate and authentic response will set your organisation on the right path for successful crisis mitigation. Consider things such as the severity of the crisis and who is involved? Are people at risk? Is it internal or external? Will it create a lot of online chatter? Will you need senior leadership team or legal counsel sign-off on communications?
Here is a great example by Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo, which responded immediately following the Easter bombings last year that killed over 150 people by posting on its Facebook page and website in both an empathic and informative way.
When developing your messages ensure you have an understanding of the culture and expectations in every market where you operate. What works in your home country may not work in other geographies or cultures, therefore messages need to be tailored accordingly.
For ASX-listed companies, if the crisis has a potentially material impact on your share price, you will need to ensure you are communicating via ASX channels before doing so on other platforms such as social media to comply with the ASX continuous disclosure rule. Under that rule, anything considered ‘material’ must be disclosed to ASX before your company can talk about it in other channels.
The easiest way to check whether the crisis has been disclosed is to look at whether an ASX Announcement has been released on your company’s feed on the ASX website. Most companies also publish their ASX Announcements on the investor page of their website, so you could check that as well.
If you’re unsure about the best steps to take, speak with your IR advisor, your company secretary, legal counsel and your ASX companies advisor to agree the best approach. (Our team has a wealth of experience in these matters, so reach out if you need assistance.)
Finally, consider visuals and graphics that align with what’s being said and demonstrate a change in normal operating procedure. Here’s a good example by Southwest Airlines in the US following tragedy after an engine on one of their aeroplanes exploded, killing one person and injuring many others. The company updated all of its social media channels with this simple but striking graphic.
- Engage and inform
Once the issue has been disclosed on the ASX (if needed) and you have acknowledged it via your online channels, it’s time to consider next steps, communications tools and ongoing messaging. Messaging must be consistent across all channels but should be tailored appropriately for the specific social platform. For example, twitter is good for ongoing news updates, linking to more complete statements such as a Crisis FAQ page on the website, a press release, or a CEO address on YouTube. Remember to consider relevant hashtags as these will help people find the information they seek.
However simply issuing statements isn’t enough when we’re talking about social media - it’s vital to engage with people online. Keep it short, don’t get pulled into a fight and consider moving the discussion to a personal channel such as private messaging. Remember crisis management can be a spectator sport- and not in a good way! I like the Hug Your Haters response rule of two, which is to respond only twice publicly. This shows that you attempted to engage in a productive, constructive way. Then move conversations that are likely to be resolved to a personal message channel after the second response.
For ASX-listed companies, you’ll also need to monitor social media, media and investor blogs and sites to ensure that any report or chatter on your crisis doesn’t contain potentially market sensitive information – whether that information is accurate or not – and leads to what the ASX calls a false market in your company’s securities per the continuous disclosure rule. You may need to issue an ASX Announcement on the matter. As per the above, speak with your IR advisor, your company secretary, legal counsel and your ASX companies advisor to get advice and agree the best approach.
- Communicate internally to arm your troops
Every employee is a potential spokesperson for the company, and with tools such as LinkedIn it’s very easy to find a particular company’s employees and reach out to them directly for comment. That’s why communicating with your board, SLT, employees and key stakeholders is crucial in ensuring effective management of any crisis. There needs to be firm guidelines for everyone in the organisation about what they should and shouldn’t say about the crisis on their social channels. You should also ensure that any communications are logged in a central issues register to ensure you know how the communications have unfolded.
- Evaluate and learn
Once your social media crisis subsides, it’s time to debrief and evaluate every facet of what happened and how it played out online. Look at details such as where did the crisis break first? How did it then spread? How did your internal communications respond? How effective was your external messaging and the channels you used? Also analyse traffic volumes and patterns, and ensure you get the whole company together to discuss experiences. Then review your existing crisis plan and incorporate any of your key learnings to create an updated version that I hope you’ll never have to use!
For more information on how to protect your organisation in the age of social media, feel free to get in touch.