Once a B2B company reaches a certain size, you begin considering hiring a public relations firm to help get your message out using an earned media approach. One of the first recommendations of many PR plans includes developing crisis communication documents. There are two primary reasons for this. Your new agency wants to encourage you to make good decisions and craft well-thought-out responses when your company is not under the pressure and scrutiny of a crisis. This will make your ultimate response better. They also want to be aware of any skeletons in your closet as a means of assessing the need for a crisis plan. This is a big part of PR and people who specialize in this field can give you many more justifications and examples for why this is a good idea, but I just want to use its essence of being prepared with regard to social media.
You may have heard of the recent coordinated attack on the Nestle Facebook page. If not, here’s a search result page. Even though much has been written about it, and it’s not the point of this post, here are my thoughts on what Nestle should do in this specific situation:
- Create a statement that addresses community concern and clear change of policy.
- Post this statement on their home page.
- Resume tweeting and continue to post this statement.
- Create a landing page on Facebook with this statement. This way the first view of their Facebook page is the statement, not the wall filled with negative comments.
- While there is no way to stop the comments on the wall, they should create discussion topics and encourage commenters to leave their comments in the discussion threads. This gives Nestle a bit more control and starts to move the comments off the wall.
As you begin thinking about a social media crisis communication plan, look at your pr crisis communication plan. Based on that approach and those documents, here are some steps to begin developing a similar plan for social media outlets.
- Review all potential issues that are included in your pr plan and prepare social media content around each one.
- Create tweets that respond to issues with a link to a statement.
- Determine if you will respond directly to other Twitter users, and if so, in what tone. Social media responses differ from pr responses, as you are communicating with individual people directly, but in a public forum.
- Know when to take conversations off-line. The answer may be for anything beyond the initial public statement.
- Establish a Facebook response approach. Because wall posts become permanently associated with your brand, unless you take them down, you must understand how to respond, if you are responding at all.
- Think about a response on LinkedIn, where there may be no mention of the crisis issue at all. Publish your statement in any groups in which your company or employees are active. This pro-active approach will earn you some respect on the most professional of social networks.
- Consider a video response for YouTube. While many CEO or executive videos seem canned or stilted, remember that you are communicating with people, and a video may be another way to speak directly to people. The preparation for this would involve determining the appropriate person for different situations and determining the shooting location. It might not be the corporate video studio.
- Review your social media presence and craft a unique response strategy for each online community where you have a following. This includes forums, social bookmarking sites and industry specific communities.
- Don’t forget about your employees. They are all now public representatives of your company and they will want to share information with their networks. And they will want positive and honest information that they are comfortable sharing. The last thing they want to do is promote corporate double talk around an issue. Their mom might even be their friend on Facebook.
Have you started thinking about a social media crisis communication strategy? What other things have you included?