As any firefighter will tell you, the best way to put out a fire is to prevent it. But when something does catch on fire, a quick first response can help keep things from going up in flames.
Using Twitter for crisis communications is fast becoming a critical component in any company’s strategy. Twitter is as much about preventing an isolated issue from becoming a full-blown crisis as it is about communicating quickly to key stakeholders and the public once a crisis has happened.
Crisis communication is a public relations activity that, with careful planning, rarely needs to be implemented. Still, it’s very important to have a plan in place when an emergency rears its ugly head. When a product fails, an accident occurs, financial crisis arises or natural disasters happen, whatever the case may be, crisis communication plans keep the peace and give direction to chaos.
Social media has changed the landscape for the development of crises and offers a critical communications channel to address and abate a crisis. Social media can blow up a situation in a matter of minutes. When a story breaks, people are actively looking for answers, and more people than ever are turning to Twitter for those answers.
As in all business communications, Twitter needs to be part of a broader strategy, and one of a variety of channels you use to listen and share with your employees, customers, clients, and industry. This is true both when it comes to prevention and when it is time to react.
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How to use twitter for crisis communications:
- Educate – Bring yourself and your staff up to speed on how Twitter works and the social norms of the platform.
- Plan – What will you do when something bad happens? Identify and plan for crises you can foresee, and those you’d never expect. Think about thinks that could happen to you – disasters, etc., and crises that are self-inflicted – product recalls, hazardous materials spills, etc. Who will be the one to speak on behalf of your company? Answer these questions and more by creating a crisis communications plan.
- Listen – Good communicators are always good listeners first. In other words, you won’t know what’s happening unless you’re actually listening. If you’re not on Twitter, then you won’t know who’s talking about your brand in that space, much less take part in that conversation. You shouldn’t join Twitter just to react to an issue. Creating a presence pre-crisis helps develop a network you know shares an interest in you and what you do.
- Be Active – Become part of the online community. Don’t wait for the building to be burning down around you to engage your public. Prevention is always better than reaction. There are also many great free tools for tracking what happens on Twitter. Use those to preemptively ease into the conversation before a crisis even hits
This article originally appeared on AM:PM PR’s Public Relations Blog and has been republished with permission.