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Crisis Communications Post-Sandy


Hurricane Sandy reminded us on the power – and dependence – of social media for real-time information about events as they unfolded. Pre-storm, Newark, NJ Mayor Cory Booker was being led via Tweets to city residents that needed help evacuating. Google set up a crisis map to tract the impact of the storm. Instagram reported that 10 images per second where being uploaded and thousands of videos were shared on YouTube during and after the storm.

In answering inquires about social media crisis planning, we’ve asked companies to step back and assess crisis planning at the enterprise level; using social media channels to reach intended audiences.

Every company needs to have a crisis communications plan as it’s a matter of ‘when,’ not ‘if’ a situation will occur. While this sounds ominous, it is really about understanding your company’s strengths and vulnerabilities. Every executive I’ve worked with over the past two decades could list these in a matter of seconds.

1.    Have a clear, consistent plan with credible messages

Review your company’s crisis plan to ensure it is current, includes the technical details of communicating, and includes all channels of communication currently in use. While C-level officers need to understand and approve of the general plan, the response team to the crisis-at-hand should be kept small as possible for focus and quick action. The response team will grow as the situation dictates.

2.    Update information regularly and proactively, adapting communication to audience and platform, reflecting the company brand and culture.

The company website is the primary online communication source as messages and content is purely at the company’s discretion.  Conversations and information via social media platforms are channels and need to reflect the corporate plan and company culture.  Setting up a Twitter hashtag and a text number for the crisis will help pool conversation and keep information consistent.

Keep call centers updated with the latest information. Empowered call center personnel can determine situations that might need additional attention (proactively) and alert supervisors for further action.

Engage field leadership and keep in conversation; understand special needs and be ready to respond.

3.    Allow feedback and networking throughout all channels.

By phone, email, or social media communication during crises provides employees, customers, distributors and vital lifelines of reassurance.

By being prepared, companies can withstand crises (if not avoid most altogether) and come back strong.

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