In times like these, the role of social media is taken to an unprecedented level. Recently, we saw a statistic that said 55% of Americans get their news from social media. While first-person accounts and opinions break up the newsfeed and shape narratives, the general user will turn to businesses for fact-based updates and solid information. This means your social media campaign must be strong, accurate, and adaptable as the environment changes.
When the world is in a tailspin, what role does social media play in your crisis communications plan?
- Communication of updates to your audience
- Support for those who need info
- Listening to understand what your audience needs from you and your business
Whatever crisis we’re facing, COVID-19 related or not, we hope it passes and that we will come out on the other side a better community. In regards to social media, that means your campaign should be focused on building trust and connections with your audience for the long term.
So how do you do that? Here are 10 tips we’ve put together to help you execute your strategy effectively:
1. Review (and possibly pause) your upcoming social calendar
Take a look at what you have scheduled for the next couple of weeks. Is it still timely and relevant? Will it feel tone-deaf or insensitive amidst everything going on? A great example is KFC. Before COVID-19 reared its ugly head, they had a “Finger-lickin’ Good Campaign” planned for the upcoming months. A really, really clever team member perked up and said “STOP! An ad campaign about touching your mouth in the middle of a pandemic probably isn’t a good idea…”. Good on you, team member.
Don’t fret that all of your hard work has gone to waste, just think of it as being “repurposed” for a later date. You’ll thank yourself for having a great campaign ready to go when things settle down a bit.
2. Have a strong social media policy in place
You might not be able to see a crisis coming, but you can be prepared for one. An emergency response policy should be solid, flexible, and information focused. You’ll want to ensure that you have an up-to-date emergency contact list, guidance on accessing social account credentials or other important login information, guidelines for identifying the scope of the crisis, an internal communication plan, and an approval process for a response strategy.
3. Know who’s on your “tiger” team
Some people work really, really well under pressure. You want your emergency response team to be comprised of these team members. They need to be quick responders, fast thinkers, and amazing adapters. While you should have a team of these people ready to go, it’s important to have a wider team in place that’s still responsible for the day-to-day monitoring and overarching campaign development. Both have their own time and place and you’ll need both to execute your strategy to the best of your ability.
4. Ensure employees are aware of your organization’s position
Is the system through which you disseminate company information strong? Do you have a process for distributing information about relief efforts, donations, or other programs? Now is the time to make sure it’s bulletproof to ensure the right information is getting to the right people and your staff feel supported during a stressful time.
5. Communicate with honesty, openness, and compassion
This is pretty self-explanatory. Our favorite example of a brand taking a minute to pause and re-orient comes from Chiquita banana. They did a great job of incorporating the #StayAtHome campaign while still maintaining their brand voice and identity.
6. Cite credible sources
Again, pretty self-explanatory. As a manager of a social media campaign, you’re responsible for providing information that is accurate and honest. Your audience trusts you to be providing valid information. In a crisis, bad information is not only irresponsible but it has the potential to damage your reputation. It may be tempting to share shocking statistics or a new update but do your due diligence in fact-checking and ensuring what you’re sharing is supported by data from reputable sources like government agencies or organizations.
7. Listen to your audience to stay informed
Monitor your content closely and be prepared to make adjustments based on how your audience responds. If you begin sharing about how your company is supporting relief efforts and your audience feels what you’re sharing is ill-timed, then it might be wise to pull that content and redirect towards something else.
8. Avoid jumping on the “trend train”
Don’t attempt to spin a crisis. Plain and simple, it won’t work and it will receive negative backlash. Now, that’s not to say that you can’t adapt to a new environment and rethink your business model to fit the situation. Recently, the factory that produced the uniforms for the Philadelphia Phillies was getting creative about what they could do with all the unused fabric they had laying around after the season was postponed. They decided to take that material and repurpose it for cloth face masks. There’s a national shortage and they felt it was their social responsibility to reallocate what they had to serve the greater good. This is a great example of how to take advantage of the situation without trying to spin it in your favor or appear profit-driven.
9. Make room for questions
People will have questions. It’s unavoidable. As situations become more tense and uneasy, your audience will become hyper-aware of your company and your product or service. They’ll ask incredibly specific questions that you may have never been asked for. Be prepared and don’t be offended. Remember that people are trying to navigate a new situation just like you are.
10. Don’t go off the grid
This is incredibly important. I know at the beginning we mentioned “pausing” your campaign. But this is a temporary measure in order to regroup and come back stronger. You may feel continuing a social media campaign is insensitive in light of the current climate, but that’s simply not true. Your audience is looking for dependency and certainty wherever they can get it. They want to see you stand your ground and stay strong.
We know that crafting a social media campaign in the middle of a crisis is probably the last thing you’re thinking about or even want to be doing. You have a business to run, employees to take care of, and customers to support. That’s where we come in. Let us help you through this season and ensure you come out on the other side strong.