Last Friday, marketing and PR professionals alike gathered to discuss our #MarketingMinds chat topic of the week- using social media in crisis communication.

Q1 What are your top tips for integrating social media into a crisis communication plan?

@Finn_PR feel that preparation is key. They suggest we plan for different scenarios so if a crisis was to occur we would be in a better position to handle the situation having already drafted flexible paths to take. Moreover, social monitoring tools (such as Meltwater Buzz) can help us gage the sentiment of posts. By doing so, we are able to judge the development of a crisis, pinpoint its stage and discover which social media channel needs our attention the most. On that note, consistency across all social platforms is also mentioned as an important factor in crisis communication plans.

@PeterLingua expresses the need for keeping an eye on influencers to help us find the root of the problem. We should analyse whether the crisis has escalated as a result of an influencer or a publication and target such individuals with the message we would prefer to see them spread. @Animatedgiff agrees confirming media monitoring tools can help us greatly with this task.

@megan_j_hughes recommends having a decision tree in place to ensure efficiency and timeliness of response, both of which are crucial in crisis communication.  @simonlp approves, stating pre-determined groups of decision makers are important as opinions flying in from everywhere rarely helps when we’re in crisis mode! We must also make sure our social media team is integrated with other key internal communication functions for example, PR, Marketing and C-suite.

Above all, participants feel we must remain human and genuine in our response. As @megan_j_hughes explains, sympathy and transparency are important at all times during crisis communication. @citypress suggests using language that shows we want to engage rather than trite replies.

Q2 You receive an inflammatory social media mention. How do you manage it?

@citypress feels that we must acknowledge negative comments before they escalate, even if we don’t have the facts, acknowledge first and then get back to our audience shortly and confirm. @taramomo_ mentions that some companies have a tendency of deleting or ignoring comments. We must avoid doing this at all costs- we wouldn’t ignore someone in person so don’t do it online! We should see this as a chance to showcase our exceptional customer service skills. Moreover, deleting a comment doesn’t delete the problem; feedback should be welcomed as it gives us a chance to react to the problem rather than dropping our audience off at the front door of our competitors.

@Finn_PR  states we should know when to take the conversation offline. One tweet can rake in thousands (if not millions) of impressions, so we must dodge airing our dirty laundry online for all to see! Taking complaints offline also allows us to be more personable. Human interaction is important in crisis communication as it’s a better medium for honest human interaction.

Q3 During a crisis, how do you judge which stakeholder to address first?

@megan_j_hughes believes responding on a first come first served basis. @Animatedgiff agrees, but if numbers are not  manageable he advises we base judgement on influence. @Animatedgiff then went on to asked whether participants feel Klout score is a good judge of stakeholder importance? @KStockner is opposed to the idea, replying that Klout doesn’t measure the stakeholders’ importance or investment. @PeterLingua agrees, stating for CSR (corporate social responsibility) Klout score should be put aside, however it is good for tracking influencers. Furthermore, @Finn_PR expresses how Klout is good contributing factor but should never be used in isolation.

@citypress states if our social media feeds are managed correctly a variety of stakeholders should already be following us, thus will receive the message at the same time. In addition to this, @taramomo_ thinks it’s important for all employees to understand what’s going on during a crisis so there are no mixed messages. Email was mentioned as inappropriate in crisis communications, due to both urgency and the need for clarity. Alternatively, we could use conference calling to ensure all employees fully understand the process and the message to be sent.

Q4 What metrics and tools do you use to manage crisis communication?

@Finn_PR suggest using social media monitoring tools so we can quickly and efficiently go back to stakeholders and keep them updated. Such tools can also help us monitor the problem and its effect on the brand. @megan_j_hughes  disagrees saying it’s not all about metrics and tools – we need the process and team in place prior; although optimised monitoring will stop subjects before crisis point. It is mentioned that monitoring tools are only useful in crisis communication if they focus on language. (Meltwater Buzz gives us the option of filtering conversation by sentiment so we can pinpoint who we need to address in terms of negative comments and identify and nurture influencers who have potential to become brand advocates on social.) A message from a community member is much more likely to be trusted then coming from a brand.

Q5 What is more important in crisis communication: timeliness or staying on message?

@Finn_PR believes that timeliness is most important as delay can be worse than the problem itself. Even if we don’t know all facts can we should acknowledge the comment and say we’re investigating and update our audience as soon as possible. @KStockner and @mcsaatchimena agree, saying speed is everything today, therefore this should be our top priority. @megan_j_hughes  feels they are both important as a lack of timeliness or message consistency can damage a brand, especially as over 75% of individuals who ask questions on twitter want a response in under 35 minutes. Similarly, @SumAllSupport thinks that both are equally as important, folks want a fast response, but also accurate information that offers a solution.