To Avoid a Social Media Crisis, Plan Ahead

Social media is an innovative tool for marketers to use to help increase brand recognition and sales, and allows consumers to easily connect with key stakeholders of a company, like CEOs. In today’s digital world, it’s necessary to have a social media strategy.

With that said, it’s also necessary to have crisis management strategy. The ever-increasing accessibility and reach of social media can sometimes make it seem as though it’s all too easy for a single misstep to become the next major public relations crisis. Fortunately, there are steps to take to minimize risk and avert potential brand reputation disasters.

A proactive mindset should be at the foundation of any approach to protecting your brand’s reputation. Ideally it would be possible to foresee and prepare for every possible scenario, but the unfortunate reality is that a crisis can take any form and can drastically alter your standing in the public eye.

It may seem unproductive to dedicate time to creating a contingency plan for a situation that may never come to pass, but the worst realization to have in the midst of a PR disaster is that you don’t have a crisis management plan. It’s obvious to the public when businesses are caught off guard, and the resulting lack of communication (or worse, uninformed response) can quickly escalate the situation.

Here are a few simple steps to help you develop a proactive crisis plan for your company’s social media strategy:

Develop company social media policies and plans
Your company’s strongest storytellers and digital ambassadors are your employees. To help control the way your employees use social media in reference to their work, create a clear company-wide social media policy that defines how to identify as an employee on social profiles, how to effectively promote company content, how to respond to customers and when to escalate situations and conversations unfolding on social media to protect the company’s reputation.

Additionally, work with key stakeholders, marketers and your public relations team to develop a crisis management plan. It’s important to have a stated plan in place to act as a compass to guide you through a negative situation. Not sure where to start when developing your plan? Work with a company like that specializes in mitigating damage to your online reputation and offers services such as crisis management and communications.

Continuously engage your customers
The way your business or brand is perceived online has a major impact not only on your customer base, but on your workforce as well. Identify key platforms where your customers interact with your brand and be sure to connect with them on a regular basis.

Having active engagement on your social media profiles not only helps to build a solid online relationship with your community, but it will also prevent your customer base from thinking that you only engage when a crisis strikes. Easy-to-use tools like Hootsuite can help you monitor multiple social media accounts and help plan and schedule messaging.

Be aware of your voice and messaging
When writing status updates and tweets, keep your messaging professional and in line with your overall company voice and style. Avoid attempting to tie your brand to sensitive topics that could offend your customers and other audiences on the platform.

Respond promptly and professionally
During a crisis, timing is everything: addressing issues quickly and offering to resolve them offline not only illustrates empathy to your customers, but also prevents a potentially tricky situation from getting out of hand on a public forum.

It can be tempting to assume that with so many stories circulating at any given time, your situation will blow over on its own, but never try to wait the situation out. Remaining silent allows the narrative to form on its own, and it can rapidly spin out of your control. Respond quickly and monitor the situation to gauge the reaction to your response. You won’t be able to please everyone, but you can work to ensure that your stance is heard and interpreted correctly.

Always remember that no brand in existence has ever been or will ever be immune to a crisis. Remain agile and aware of your digital presence, and be prepared to handle a negative situation with a proactive crisis management plan to keep your brand sailing on smooth social waters.

Christian Hamilton is a reputation specialist with, a provider of reputation management services.

Morning Consult welcomes op-ed submissions on policy, politics and business strategy in our coverage areas. Updated submission guidelines can be found here.

Morning Consult