Why You Never Want to be Caught without a Crisis Communication Plan

By Leanne Gilardi
TOPICSSocial Media

I was listening to a webinar recently. About eight minutes in, the audio suddenly went fuzzy and the host became inaudible. A few seconds went by — then 10, 15. I had to hold my headphones away from my ears because the noise was so loud. Then the slides disappeared.

Crisis! How many people left the webinar within those first five seconds of confusion? How many people kept listening? The outcome largely depends on the way such issues are handled. When all looked lost, another moderator on the line started to speak.  He didn’t just apologize for the technical issues, instead he engaged attendees with conversation. He asked where everyone was from and read responses from attendees, then he started telling cheesy marketing jokes like: “Why did the two marketers decide to not get married? Because they were on different landing pages.”

While this tactic may have been thought up on the fly, the point is, this guy saved the webinar! Had he not stepped in, the whole thing would have gone under. There go weeks of email campaigns, hours of work spent on a convincing landing page, and all the preparation for the webinar content. Gone and quickly forgotten by all the attendees turned off by an electrical hiss.

In the case of this webinar, the spontaneous move worked out. But a crisis plan cannot always be generated in the heat of the moment. In fact, it should really be the opposite. Lack of planning can make an already disastrous situation worse.

How does this tie into your plans?

Every organization with an online or public-facing presence needs to have a crisis communication plan under their belt. As part of that, there’s one component that too many companies haven’t figured out yet. Social media needs to be included in any crisis communication plan.

Continuity Insights conducted a survey in 2014 and the findings showed that more than half of their respondents feel that the benefits of using social media as a crisis communications tool outweigh the risks, but only 40 percent of respondents have a strategy in place for using social media during a crisis.

What is your plan for when a customer gives you a terrible review on a social media platform? What about when they tweet or directly post their dissatisfaction?

Asking yourself these questions before the situation arises can lead to better preparedness for crisis situations. Seeing a brand respond honestly and address trouble in a timely fashion goes a long way with past, present and future customers. Here are a few can’t-miss tips that will get you there:

  • Do NOT argue with your audience through social media — or ever, for that matter
  • Don’t wait to step in — already have a plan in action to avoid lagging behind (which can kill you in the fast-paced world of social media)
  • Be human and transparent; it’s the key to a genuine interaction

Assuming that your business will never find itself embroiled in an online fiasco is naïve. Every online business, even those that largely operate in the brick-and-mortar space, is exposed to all that social media can bring. But with these tips to get you started, and a well-laid plan, there’s no reason for you to be underprepared.  So protect yourself with a plan — call it crisis insurance for your business.