The Employee’s Guide to Social Media Crisis Management

What happens if the company or organization you work for finds itself in a social media crisis, but hasn’t invested in a social media crisis plan?

What do you do when the stress of the situation starts to escalate and you’re still left unclear of your role within the crisis? When you feel unhelpful, confused and frustrated? When you haven’t been trained in the proper ways to respond to such a situation or are even clear in what your team expects of you?

If you’re an employee of a company and happen to find yourself in a similar situation, here are some starting points of what you can do in order to help the company for which you work begin to regain control of the situation:

You’ve detected a negative situation but are unsure if it is really a social media crisis:

Do some digging and answer the following two questions:

  • Is it an escalating situation where you feel you may, or have already, lost control?
  • Can it potentially have a negative impact on the company’s reputation or bottom line?

If you’ve answered yes to both of these questions, than it’s fair to assume that the company is under social media attack.

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At this point you must bring the situation to upper management’s attention right away, providing them with all the information and links that you can.

The company you work for is in a social media crisis and no one on your staff is trained to handle such a predicament:

Note: If it is a severe crisis, the best move that can be made is to call in a social media crisis manager to help and guide you through the situation.

Meanwhile – or if it is for some reason not within your means to call in a professional – you can begin by following these steps:

Step 1: If you have a social media initiative team, find out if they are capable of answering to the crisis with a simulation of the following message:

”We are aware of the situation and currently looking into it. We will be the ones to let you know as soon as we know more, and we thank you for your patience and understanding.”

If you do not have a team or individual who can be responsible for doing this, take initiative. This simple statement is the first step in helping you begin to regain control of the situation.

Step 2: Once the route of the problem has been determined, make sure that upper management is keeping the entire staff in the loop. Every member of your team should be aware of:

  • Who is responsible for addressing the situation publicly
  • To whom, or where they’re suppose to send inquiring individuals. (Should they be sent to an FAQ or official response that upper management will be publishing, should they be given an email or direct crisis line to call, etc…)
  • What clear message needs to be communicated throughout the crisis

These are important questions that need to be answered. It’s very important that a clear and targeted message be communicated to the public across all communication channels.

When in doubt, focus on the following:

  • Remaining calm
  • Focus on the areas in which you have control
  • Understand your role within the crisis (when unsure, find out)
  • Find out where to send inquiring individuals
  • Keep the lines of communication open
  • Focus on strengthening and rebuilding the relationship you share with your customers and fans
  • Identify the consistent message that needs to be communicated

When the crisis has been resolved it’s time for the company to learn from their mistake

When the crisis has been resolved, you can use it as a perfect example of why the company needs to invest in a social media crisis plan. It would be unfair for them to leave you vulnerable and put you in this unsettling situation twice.

”Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – Paraphrased from George Santayana’s quote

… and handling a social media crisis that you were unprepared for is in no way a lesson you want to learn from twice!

Have you ever been placed in a similar situation, and if so how did you handle it and did the company for which you work learn from their mistake? I invite you to share your experiences with me below.

photo by: bark

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