Tips for Effective Online Crisis Communication

The Internet drives today’s crisis communication efforts to include a plethora of new components. Expected response time has shortened drastically, the number of people involved with response has doubled, the number of possible outlets for a situation to go viral has expanded exponentially and more situations can now result in potential crises.

So, what should you do? There are a few things companies should put in place in order to stay ahead of online issues.

Expand your crisis team. Crisis communication no longer lies with just the executive team and communications council. To be effective you need to involve your HR department, IT staff, community/brand managers, media/blogger relations staff, advertising department and more. The reason for larger teams comes from the need to respond quickly and effectively. With multiple outlets and expectations for real-time response, someone needs to be available at all times.

Have a social media policy and response plan. Work to prevent issues. Let employees know what they are and aren’t allowed to post on the company page and on their personal pages. Also, set guidelines for how they should respond if a crisis situation arises. Make expectations clear and enforce them. Answer questions like, “Should we respond to every complaint on our Facebook page?”, “Are there situations that should be taken offline?” Develop numerous potential scenarios and map out the proper response. Keep guidelines in accordance with your company mission.

Respond immediately. Don’t let a small situation grow into a larger issue. Address customer complaints and postings right away. Let customers know they are heard and their problem is your priority. Even if you don’t have a solution right away, let them know you’re working on it. Always be honest, take responsibility and be sincere. With a structured social media policy and response plan your employees should feel empowered to respond appropriately, instantly.

Engage in active brand monitoring. Whether you know it or not, people are talking about your brand and related topics across the Internet. You should be aware of those interactions and respond to them when necessary. When posting about your company or product, people are likely not tagging you and you may remain unaware until it’s too late. Proper monitoring is essential. A few of our favorite monitoring tools include:

  1.  Google Alerts – set up alerts for the presence of keywords in news, videos, websites and more. Alerts are sent directly to your email so you can react in real-time. Track mentions of your company name, product type and relatable industry terms.
  2.  Social Mention – search for specific keywords and pull up all related social activity. This includes videos, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc.
  3.  Sprout Social – leverage social media monitoring software to access an all-in-one social inbox, deep analytics and mobile access. With a small monthly fee you can manage all your tracking and engagement in one location.
  4.  Topsy – a search platform designed specifically for Twitter. Set up keyword alerts and pull reports on things such as the number of negative/positive mentions per week.
  5.  Boardreader – a unique search platform designed for bulletin boards and forums. Track group discussions and questions that revolve around your brand or related keywords.

Check out our Slideshare presentation on this topic for examples and more details.

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