Digital crisis planning

Thoughtful digital crisis planning can help you product your brand reputation

What if today is the day? The day of the big challenge, the one you weren’t expecting, to your company’s brand. Has your team done the necessary digital crisis planning?

Digital crisis planning - 4:01 a.m.

It’s 4:01 a.m., do you know where your digital crisis plan is?

Crises have always been possible at any time of day. But in our 24/7 digital communication world, news of a crisis that affects a company brand can spread just as fast at 4 a.m. as at 4 p.m.

It’s impossible to write a plan for every scenario. Yet having an overall approach in place can help you address nearly any crisis. That’s why digital crisis planning is something every communications professional should tackle for their company, brand or client.

You probably already have a crisis communications plan in place for weather events, potential incidents and any major scenario that could affect your customers, employees and operation. (If you don’t, put the digital crisis planning on hold until you have a crisis communications plan.)

Digital crisis planning bolsters a crisis communications plan by ensuring that your company’s response works and is distributed across social sites. The digital plan also helps you avoid missteps online that could make things worse.

Here are a few things to consider when developing a digital crisis plan:

What’s the digital scope?

As companies have adapted to digital media, many have a presence on multiple sites. It isn’t unusual for a company to have 5 – 10 different social media accounts. When the company uses the sites well and engages followers, everything is great.

Think about who on your team knows where the company has a presence. How difficult would it be to quickly reach the owners of each account in the event of a crisis to stop communication or send a message. If you don’t know how you would do that, figure it out and put it in the plan.

One lighthearted, scheduled message can derail a response to a crisis. Even when the crisis is not specific to your brand or industry, if it is big enough, such as a terrorist attack or natural disaster, you could create an issue by not going quiet on social.

Plan for coverage

Let’s go back to that 4 a.m. crisis. Will someone empowered to update sites hear about the crisis at 8 a.m. or by 4:30 a.m.? Many digital communicators are wired from sunup to past sundown. But communications professionals do sleep and look away from phones.

Who will notify the communications team? Is there always someone (and not the same someone) available to develop messages, take down content and share updates on multiple channels?

Digital crisis planning has to include details about who will handle what, no matter how early or late.

Be quick, but take your time

In many cases, the fastest, wittiest individual or brand looks like the winner in social conversations. The same can be true for using digital communications while managing a crisis.

Getting your message out quickly helps make that message the one that’s shared more widely. But that only works if it’s the right message with an appropriate tone, accurate information and addresses the right audience(s).

When you are doing digital crisis planning, consider who and what are needed to ensure a message is ready for posting. Are the right individuals available, no matter the hour? Does everyone who could be called on to write a message have the skills and tools to do so? (See the 6th tip in this Forbes story about crisis management in the digital world.)

Your team should be prepared to move quickly while still taking enough time to get the right message out to the right audiences.

Developing a digital crisis plan can help protect your company’s brand reputation. These three considerations are just a starting point. Tackle these and then go deeper to prepare for the potential 4 a.m. call.






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