Creating A Social Media Crisis Communication Plan

With social media being society’s preferred means of communication, we are all coming to grips with a new reality–in time of crisis, parents, students staff, media, and neighbors will look to your online channels for reliable, timely information.

In this second installment of our four-part series on social media communication planning, we’ll discuss some key tactics you can implement to prepare for an escalated situation. These tips are pertinent to leaders in schools and districts, companies, and organizations:

1. Establish an action plan and response hierarchy for your social media profile management.

For some users, social platforms may have several stakeholders with editing and posting rights, but during a crisis, the absence of a clear chain of command could create confusion among your followers. During an escalated situation, the person managing the profiles should be well-versed in social media, calm under pressure, and able to gauge the scale of follower engagement. Ideally, this person should be the CTO or an IT administrator. Once someone has commandeered your social channels, be sure to delay or cancel any scheduled posts to avoid confusion or appearing insensitive.

2. Create templates or examples of content.

When posting, be sure to limit content to the facts directly impacting your community. Avoid speculation or over-sharing information. In the event of a large-scale issue, be sure to get approval from any law enforcement agencies involved.

3. Develop a timeline for post frequency and fold it into a large-scale communication plan.

In situations where safety is at risk, an hourly update is a good rule of thumb. As a situation de-escalates, you can lessen the frequency to a post every three or four hours. For non-safety related matters, posts can be published as new information becomes available. Folding the social media post timetable into your existing communication timeline is an easy way to maintain continuous engagement.

4. Monitor online channels to identify potential issues and gauge sentiment.

In addition to posting on your channels, monitoring posts and comments from outside users is immensely important. Using free tools such as SocialMention can help you keep track of what the public is saying. This is particularly important since many social media users avoid fact-checking prior to sharing or posting content.

Effective communication is a crucial component of the Framework of Essential Skills of the K-12 CTO. Establishing protocol in these four areas will place you in an excellent position to navigate communication on social media in a way that helps your followers and protects of your reputation.

In our next post we will discuss exactly how and when to respond to posts, trolls and everything in between. 

Charlene Blohm, manages C. Blohm & Associates an award-winning, full-service education PR agency based in Madison, Wisconsin and is a longtime supporter of CoSN.