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Your Roadmap to Successful Communications in the Face of Crisis

None of us want to be involved in a crisis, but sadly they’ve become inevitable — and social media often ends up being a flashpoint for whatever emergency is happening near or far. One second, you are golden as you share pictures of your latest event or an outing with your dog and, moments later, the world around you is engulfed in chaos.

Whether you’re on the periphery of the crisis event or right in the center, you need to have a plan for how you’ll handle your media feeds during a local, national or international emergency.

Fortunately, there are some common sense steps you can follow to ensure you handle any crisis in a rational, sensitive and productive way. Here’s your basic roadmap for navigating the storm.

Evaluate the situation & your feed

The last thing you want is to be tone-deaf during an emergency, especially if you're in the habit of scheduling posts well in advance.

The first thing you want to do is gauge the severity of the incident. Ask yourself the following questions:

• Is there loss of life and/or property?
• Is the incident still developing or are key facts already known?

After considering the unfolding situation, review your scheduled posts for the next three days and amend the content as needed. Make sure you aren’t being inadvertently callous or tone-deaf. You don’t want to be the person gushing about your new shop van when people are losing their homes and livelihoods.

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You should also ask whether or not:

• Your clients have a clear connection to the incident, location, or people involved?
• The incident affects a community you wish to support?
• There is significant coverage of the incident across traditional news networks nationally?
• If similar vendors and industry leaders are responding or going dark?
• Whether your own clients are responding in a personal capacity?
• Whether posting about the incident offers concrete aid to those affected?

If you answer yes to at least two of these questions, halt all of your social media posts for a 24-hour period, then reevaluate based on new information coming in.  If you answer yes to four or more questions, stop all scheduled posts and formulate a response based on what needs to be addressed.

Stay on brand with posts to your business pages

Posting and advertising during a hurricane on the opposite coast isn’t a faux pas. Normalcy is a  comfort to many people and “business as usual” has a place beyond the immediate disaster zone. Just be conscientious that your messaging isn’t “tone-deaf.”

Unless your specialty is planning events in emergency situations, you don't necessarily need to use your business page or any other company social media channel to report the details of the emergency.

Instead, think about your brand and make it relevant to what people might need right now. For example, if your brand is into community, volunteering, and a spirit of service, you could talk about how you and your team are aiding in relief efforts. Or, if one of your specialties is managing events irrespective of natural disasters, show your behind-the-scenes process for taking care of your clients during an emergency and executing a flawless event.

Recovery efforts matter

What people often need most after a disaster is a sense of stability and hope. You can provide that by highlighting the things about your community that are still functioning and available.

Smart vendors and vendor communities adopt a recovery plan. There’s nothing worse than posting to your feed about a crisis that affects your community only to drop it once the news cycle ends. If your community has been hit by a natural disaster or a domestic event like recent tragic shootings, the best thing you can do after is talk about recovery efforts. Send an “open for business” message, both individually and as a vendor community. Speak openly about how beautiful the landscape still is after the disaster. Talk about how the area is safe and welcoming.

Influencers can also aid in the recovery effort by submitting new events to blogs and magazines and asking them to share the news that your community is still open for business. Work with local “micro-influencers” and vendor colleagues to form a plan and a commitment to consistently talk about recovery for the next six months or year.

The immediacy and speed of social media gives it amazing power and influence, but that means huge events near or far can affect you and your business. Having your social media disaster roadmap in place can help you be most responsive and effective for your business, your clients, and your community.

Christie Osborne

Owner | Mountainside Media

Christie Osborne is the owner of Mountainside Media, a company that helps event industry professionals brands develop scalable marketing strategies that brings in more inquiries and leads. Christie is a national educator with recent speaking engagements at NACE Experience, WIPA and the ABC Conference.