Today, responding to an organizational crisis looks a lot different than it did ten years ago.

In our modern digital age, everyone is watching. As a result, there is more of an opportunity for a crisis to not only occur, but also to rapidly spread. In the not-too-distant past, brands, companies, organizations and individuals could take their time when addressing a crisis – for example, they could take several minutes, even hours, to carefully prepare statements, key messaging, and a comprehensive plan to address the event.

That is no longer the case.

Nowadays, you must be able to respond to a crisis instantly. Part of this involves preparing for a crisis well ahead of time, before it even has a chance to occur.

It is not enough to simply have a crisis plan in place, however. Stakeholders and audiences now have access to multiple online platforms to talk to and about you, and it’s critical that you also have resources in place to respond quickly, evaluate each interaction, and decide who to respond to, and how.

A Crisis Plan for the Digital Age

A crisis plan for today’s modern, fast-paced digital landscape should include an outline of how to (and who will) deal with negative online events, such as:

  • Poorly executed tweets from internal staff
  • Hate speech
  • Threats
  • Criminal activity
  • “Troll” activity

It should also include detailed internal instructions for management and staff that utilize the following tips for forming and communicating a response:

  1. Respond quickly. Social media happens in real time, and you need to be prepared to respond in a timely manner. Around 28 per cent of crises spread internationally within one hour. Social media doesn’t take weekends off, so it’s important to know who is tracking social media on the weekends and how you will repond during off-hours if something happens.
  2. Show that you’re listening. A simple, fast response acknowledging the issue can let your audience know that you are taking the matter seriously, and more information is on its way.
  3. Don’t ignore the negative comments. Avoid only responding to positive comments, and never delete or ignore negative ones. In order to avoid a potential back-and-forth argument, suggest that the incident continue to be resolved offline, and offer a telephone number or email address.
  4. Communicate the incident internally. Ensure that your internal team is aware of the situation as it’s happening. This will help prevent misinformation.
  5. Debrief after the storm. Once the crisis has ended, hold a debriefing session with the internal team to evaluate what worked, what didn’t, and steps to take in the future. Update your social media crisis plan accordingly.

Communicating Effectively is Key

The advent of social media continues to transform the industry, particularly in the way organizations handle crisis situations. Advancements in technology and the multitude of available digital channels have created both challenges and strategic advantages to the way crisis communications is approached.

Communicating effectively with your audience during a crisis should be taken seriously. After all, it has the power to determine how your image – and that of your business or organization – is remembered for years to come.