Facebook Crisis Communication Lessons

The Facebook crisis communications lessons are many. The explosive interview on 60 Minutes and the testimony before Congress from whistleblower Frances Haugen confirms and reinforces the crisis communication lessons we discussed in the SituationHub Master Class that originally aired live on March 11, 2021. The Master Class is called The Social Media Conundrum. You’ll want to watch that program, in which we zeroed in on why Facebook’s algorithms are built against you in a crisis.  

Essentially, Haugen confirmed how the algorithms focus on your bad news and get your crisis event in front of more eyeballs on Facebook, while your good news perishes. It’s why we strongly urge our clients NOT to use Facebook as part of their crisis communications strategy. A key takeaway line from social media marketing expert Jay Baer was his observation that you should never build your house on rented property, i.e. Facebook is rented property. You are better to build your house on your website.

We’ve often defined a crisis as any event that can damage an organization’s reputation, revenue, and brand. This week, Facebook is the poster child of crisis communication lessons.

  • A whistleblower calls out Facebook’s algorithms on 60 Minutes
  • Facebook’s stock value immediately takes a nosedive
  • Social media lights up with #DeleteFacebook
  • The whistleblower calls out Facebook’s algorithms before Congress
  • Facebook crashes
  • Facebook is slow to issue a crisis communications statement about its own crisis

Facebook’s response and behavior are very similar to how big tobacco and big chemical behaved in the 1970s. The chemical industry has made huge strides in their efforts to reduce chemical emissions, as well as in their crisis response. Big tobacco has seen their clientele disappear as it attempts to morph into a vaping business.

The Facebook crisis communications lessons will continue. Winston Churchill once said,

Never waste a good crisis.”

To that extent, we believe that every crisis is a living classroom and worthy of your attention so you can learn from the success or failure of others in crisis. The lessons learned should serve as an incentive for you to engage in the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications, so you can have the tools to communicate effectively should you face a crisis. 

The Facebook crisis is a treasure trove of how not to handle a crisis. We suspect things will get much worse in the days and weeks ahead.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

15 Questions to Ask Before You Use Facebook for Crisis Communications

Can You Handle a Crisis When it Hits by Winging It?

Crisis Management Lessons from Hurricane Katrina vs. COVID19

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Crisis Communications and the Volatile Customer on Social Media

We don’t often associate customer service with crisis communications. However, in the age of social media, a single unhappy customer can quickly damage a brand’s revenue and reputation.

Over the years in this blog, we have reviewed countless case studies of how customers on social media have leveled serious allegations against companies. Cancel culture is the latest variation of what we’ve long called “The Volatile Customer.”

Social media gives unhappy customers a platform to becoming more volatile in their criticism of your brand. Volatile doesn’t need to imply physical harm, because words and complaints and truths going viral can fan the flames of volatility. A great brand treats an upset customer with care before they reach the point of lashing out on social media. Good customer service turns your volatile customer into a brand ambassador. You want brand ambassadors.

A single, angry “volatile” Tweet or post on Facebook can go viral, creating the opportunity for more and more people see the post and chime in. They relate to the post. They share their own, bad, customer service experience with the brand. Soon, the conversation explodes. The criticism can’t be silenced.

In the world of crisis communications, some people will push this off as issues management. Others say it falls into customer service. Some think the social media team should handle this.

We suggest you treat every dissatisfied customer as a potentially volatile customer who can convert an unhappy customer experience into a monumental crisis. Your organization needs to have a team ready to handle this sort of situation. A proper crisis communications plan can be your guide in managing the expectations of your audience.

We’re putting this topic front and center in the coming years, because a volatile customer can do unlimited damage to revenue, reputation and brand. That’s why we’ve launched our newest keynote, “The Volatile Customer.”

If your team generally focuses on sales and customer service, they need to be aware that Cancel Culture is just one bad customer experience away.

To schedule a complimentary, confidential call with me to discuss your organization’s vulnerabilities to volatile customers on social media visit https://calendly.com/braud/15min

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

15 Questions to Ask Before You Use Facebook for Crisis Communications

Can You Handle a Crisis When it Hits by Winging It?

Crisis Management Lessons from Hurricane Katrina vs. COVID19

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

Avoid Social Media Scrutiny, Save Your Brand

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC 

Think of social media as a compass. A compass has 360 degrees or points on it. If you face one direction, the opposite direction is 180 degrees from you.

In social media, any time you take a position on a topic, you can be assured that someone else has an opinion 180 degrees away from you – or the exact opposite opinion. And for that much, if we keep with the compass analogy, if you were to put 360 social media participants in a virtual space, you can bet that no two feel exactly the same. Each has a different opinion, ranging from just one or two degrees off to being 180 degrees away – or feeling exactly the opposite of someone else. You can see some of the digital impact of #blacklivesmatter, #metoo, and other social justice hashtags on social media here.

The media loves to report what people think on social media. Rather than conducting a scientific poll to measure public opinion, television reporters and producers turn to Facebook and Twitter to report how people feel about any issue. This replaces a previous disturbing, sad trend of the “man on the street interview.” This is where a television reporter hopelessly stands on a street corner trying to get sound bites from random people, to fill a hole in a new story.

Years ago, stories would have run on the news and people would have voiced their opinions at the office water cooler, at the corner bar, or at the beauty parlor.

Social media is a virtual office water cooler, corner bar and beauty parlor all connected to the world’s largest amplifier.

Add to it that search engines and hashtags allow the amplification to be searched and then amplified through the television news media, which means the television media will tell you what people think.

Sadly, and with a degree of bias, the media tell you what they think the prevailing thoughts are, even though my compass analogy tells you that whatever one person thinks about one issue, someone else thinks something slightly or very different. For example, for each person who believes people must wear masks in public to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, there is another person who believes they should not have to, or that the use of masks is not helpful to prevent the spread.

Social media is full of opinions. Many of us have heard a variety of quotes about opinions. They range from the mild, “Opinions are like Belly Buttons, everybody has one;” to the slightly more crude, “Opinions are like farts. Just because you have one doesn’t mean you have to let it out;” to the even more crude analogy I heard during my television news career, “Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one and thinks that everyone else’s stinks.” (Google “Opinion Quotes” to see countless more.)

The sad reality is the media, for nearly 20 years, has laid inflammatory opinions out for the public to hear, just to fuel a degree of outrage, so that people keep talking about what they heard on the news and where they heard it. News Talk Radio pioneered it and I’d say Rush Limbaugh turned it into an ugly ratings bonanza, copied by local talk radio, which has then been copied by Fox News and CNN each time they assemble a group of pundits who scream at each other with opposing views.

So how does this affect you if you are in PR and communications, working for a corporation, non-profit organization or government agency?

First, you must be more aware than ever that you will be judged harshly by critics for any and everything done by your organization, its executives, and its employees. Your efforts at good news publicity will be condemned by naysayers. Your future crises will become the focal point for public hostility in social media. I predict that someday in the not too distant future, companies will go out of business simply because of public pressure on social media.

Long term, your company could see serious damage to both reputation and revenue because of social media pressure. You could be forced to apologize for harmless acts or actions that capture the ire of social media.

In conclusion, every corporation, non-profit organization and government agency, and the executives and employees of each, face tougher scrutiny than ever. The time is now to rethink your media relations, social media and crisis communications strategies. What got no attention in the past will be more amplified than ever in the most costly ways.

Rethinking your media relations, social media, and crisis communications strategies can be extremely difficult and time-consuming, so these videos can walk you through it. View 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications here.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

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Covid-19 Crisis Communications Webinar Recording

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

Photo by Thomas de LUZE on Unsplash

How Do I Handle a Social Media Troll? Crisis Communication Tips

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC 

Are you prepared for social media trolls taking over your social media sites or even worse, your website or blog?

Is your strategy outlined in your crisis communications plan for your public relations team, communications professionals, or your CEO’s to see and follow?

What is a social media troll and why should you care?

Social media trolls are typically mean-spirited people who hide behind an anonymous persona and live for the joy of making other people miserable by posting mean or inappropriate comments on social media sites, corporate websites, and blogs. Trolls are the bullies of the social media playground.

A troll may target your social media site randomly and verbally attack your company for something they don’t like or disagree with. Trolls usually seek out corporate sites during a crisis to add their mean two-cents. Trolls may rise to the level of organized activists who attack your site as a group.

Trolls are the social media equivalent of either a single activist throwing eggs on your CEO at a high profile public event or the equivalent of protesters with signs picketing outside your corporate headquarters.

A clear sunny day is a good day to put time on your calendar to debate internally what your strategy should be for your darkest day.

As expected, the debate I ignited when I posed the question of whether a social media site should ever be pulled down is an indication of the conflicting opinions and passion we see among PR people over this topic. It also means there is probably conflicting opinions internally where you work.

Do you want to wrestle with those opinions in the midst of a crisis? I hope you say N-O!

What should you do now to prepare for social media trolls?

1) Schedule time on a clear sunny day to discuss and debate this issue with your corporate leadership.

2) Set a policy, then modify your crisis communications plan to reflect the policy.

3) Create a pre-written news release template that would be used to explain the rationale of your policy, should you be forced to use it in a crisis. For example, if you took your site dark, you would need to explain why to your audience. Likewise, if you allowed your site to remain up and be overrun by trolls, you might need to explain that to your audience via a statement. Remember, these statements could be posted to your website, e-mailed to employees and stakeholders, and shared with the media if necessary.

It may be best to consult with a public relations or crisis communications professional on your decision. When I proposed that a POSSIBLE option MAY be to take a social media site dark, many PR people cited examples of companies that could never do that. Well great, I say. Yes, there are clearly premier brands that would face harsh criticism if they took their sites dark. Yet, I clearly cited brands in my discussion that I think could go dark without anyone but the trolls noticing, because the social media reach for some companies is so tiny that no one really knows they exist, nor do they care. Where does your brand fit into this equation?

You may argue it is naive of some PR people or crisis communications consultants to say a social media site could or should never go dark, when in fact the final pulling of the plug could come at the order of the CEO. You can offer all of the wise counsel you want, but sometimes the boss ultimately has it his or her way, with complete disregard for what you think. All the more reason to have this discussion with your leadership team on a clear sunny day.

Making decisions that impact your reputation and revenue are not easy. Please schedule time to do it today. If you’d like me to sit in on the discussion, please give me a call at 985-624-9976.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

How to Use Social Media for Crisis Communications

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson


You’re Ruining Your Reputation on Social Media: Use 5 Basic Rules

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC 

The ability for the global community to post online comments in countless ways and forums makes the world even more frightening for those trying to manage their reputation. For the sake of discussion here, when I use the term social media, I’m talking about all postings to the internet that allow your reputation to be improved or destroyed, as well as the gadgets that make it all possible. There are

3 ways you can get hurt in the world of social media:

  1. When your public actions are photographed or video taped, then posted to the web
  2. When your reputation is attacked on social sites and blogs
  3. When you willingly participate in on-line discussions and do a poor job communicating

For example, there is a video posted to the web of a county commissioner being hounded by a television reporter. When asked after a public meeting to justify the delay in opening a new county juvenile justice center, the commissioner asks the reporter, “Elliot, do you know that Jesus loves you?” The commissioner then dodges every one of the reporter’s subsequent questions by trying to engage in a discussion about why the reporter should accept Jesus as his personal savior. Regardless of your religious beliefs, the answer is inappropriate because it is not germane to the news report, and by repeating a variation of it as the answer to every question, it only makes the official look more like he is guilty of hiding something.

Prior to the advent of social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook.com and YouTube.com, such buffoonery would have been seen once or twice on the local evening news, the commissioner would have become the butt of some brief local mockery and embarrassment, but within a few days it would all pass.

But in the age of social media, millions of people around the world are able to watch the video and laugh at its absurdity on a daily basis. Some will post a link to their own website, or forward a link via e-mails to friends. This is what viral and social media is all about. This video lives forever on the world wide web and so does the commissioner’s embarrassment, mockery and humiliation, as people perpetually forward the video to their network of real friends and online acquaintances.

Issues like this are one of the reasons you should consider Social Media Training. Social Media Training is a program I pioneered to teach communicators and executives the realities and how their reputations can be damaged by public actions that are either voluntarily, or involuntarily captured, and posted to the web.

Numerous reputations and careers have been destroyed because of what someone says in a presentation to what is perceived as a friendly group. Inevitably, an audience member records the speech or presentation, then either posts a portion of it to the web or gives it directly to the media.

Cloaked with an audience of perceived friends, speakers often “cross the line” by their comments, only to face humiliation, embarrassment, and in many cases a long list of apologies and even the loss of their jobs because they thought their comments were made in private and off the record. If you are hosting a social media training class, you may wish to combine it with a presentation skills class.

Social Media Training is also needed before communicators and executives voluntarily attempt to participate in online communities. This is true whether one is responding to a posting made by someone else, or whether you are the one posting to a personal or corporate blog for your organization.

For instance, I found a random blog entry one day as I prepared to teach a Social Media Seminar. The blog entry was from a top executive from General Motors. The blog entry, posted on an official GM site, featured a photo of the executive. The guy in the photo looked like he was delivering an angry rant on stage at a corporate meeting. His blog entry, likewise, took an angry, rant style with a tone that personified, “I know better than you.”

His comment was a reply to a blog posting critical of GM’s poor gasoline mileage in its SUV’s. Because of how the executive worded his rather pompous response, many more participants in the blog criticized his parsed words and reply, which reflected the official corporate line.

In short, the executive’s poor choice of words was like throwing gasoline on a small fire, turning it into a bigger fire. It didn’t need to be that way.

CEO’s and executives need to think carefully before they participate in social media and corporate communicators need to think carefully before asking or allowing executives to actively participate in social media.

There are a few basic things communicators and executives should consider in the world of social media:

1. Are you good with traditional media? If you are not good with traditional media, what makes you think you can handle social media?

2. How do you behave in public? Do you realize that every public moment of your life is potentially being photographed or recorded? Your public behavior, what you do and say, who you associate with, and where you are seen in public, can all be posted to the web for the entire world to see.

My 5 basic rules for social media:

1) Every rule of media training applies to social media. Every word and how those words are phrased will be carefully scrutinized.

2) Edit what you say constantly to avoid having your comments taken out of context.

3) The rule of ethics is to ask whether you behavior in private is the same as the way you would behave if people were watching you. Congruency of behavior is important.

4) Before jumping into an online blog type discussion, you need to be prepared to use key messages and making sure those key messages have been run through the cynic filter. Bloggers are cynical and brutal.

5) Sometimes the best response to a blog posting is to ask a question. Rather than attacking a blogger for their point of view, simply ask them to further explain their point of view. Sometimes a blogger will back down as they are unable to defend their position. Sometimes other bloggers will come to your rescue with responses that match your point of view.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

How to Use Social Media for Crisis Communications

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

Is Social Media Your Best Communications Platform for Crisis Communications?

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC 

Public relations professionals and public information officers (PIOs) love social media for crisis communications. Many PR professionals wanted to share their expert opinion on a previous blog I wrote when I asked, “Is Social Media Good for Crisis Communications?”

In a nutshell, the blog pointed out that Facebook and other social media platforms have changed their algorithms and they are intentionally showing your posts to fewer people. This means that

In a crisis, social media today doesn’t give you the reach it did five years ago.

-Gerard Braud

In a companion blog, I championed the use of Live Streaming features as a crisis communications tool. The algorithms do favor live broadcasts over a basic post.

We’ve had a bit of our own crisis on our blog, that our tech team is trying to fix. The ReCaptcha isn’t working and it is making it impossible for you to post your comments. We’re on it. But one of my colleagues went so far as to send me a nice email with his point of view regarding my blog post Is Social Media Good for Crisis Communications?  I am sharing his comments in this post.

I will say this about the use of social media for crisis communications – how you use it and how it benefits you depends upon two things:

  1. What type of organization do you represent?
  2. How big is your communications staff?

What Type of Organization Do You Represent?

If you communicate for an electric company or an electric cooperative and there is a power failure because of weather or a technical problem, you can bet your customers and members will go to Facebook on their phones to look for an update on the outage. Yes, you will find social media is good for crisis communications in this situation. And as I advocated in my live video blog, Live Stream on social media is a perfect way to manage the expectations of your customers before a serious weather event. But this does not absolve you of your obligation to post official information to your website newsroom.

If you are the public information officer for a police department or a government agency and you need to get information to members of your community, then yes, Facebook and Twitter are a great way to get information to the public. But this does not absolve you of your obligation to post official information to your website newsroom.

If you represent a corporation that doesn’t want to draw a lot of attention to your crisis, then no, Facebook and Twitter may not necessarily serve you well. But your newsroom on your website will always serve you well as home base for official information.

To be clear, every crisis communications plan I write includes directives on how and when to use social media in a crisis. However, the directives always include using social media to direct interested parties to your website newsroom.

How Big is Your Communications Staff?

Are you a one-person communication staff or do you have many people helping to communicate?

In crisis communications, your goal should be to share honest information with the media, your employees, and your stakeholders.

Your priority should NOT be to moderate comments on social media. Your PRIORITY should be to gather information, confirm information, and share information, then repeat the process again until the crisis has passed.

If you have a small communications staff, spending time moderating social media comments takes you away from your primary job.

For years I’ve advocated that social media is a tool and nothing more than one more communications channel. As I mentioned in my blog and as I’ve advocated for years, your website is the most secure place to post honest information. By using it consistently, you are able to train the media, your employees, and your stakeholders to trust that this is where they should go for OFFICIAL information.

In the comments below, Kerry Shearer will point out that many of the PIOs and government organizations he works with do not have the capability to post to a website and therefore social media and Live Streaming are their only option.  

I’ll agree that it is an option and that it is useful to PIOs, but if PIOs are professional communicators, then they need to demand the tools used by professional communicators. If a police officer requires a gun, bullets, and a patrol car to do his or her job, then a PIO requires access to their website to post news updates.

It’s 2019 and it is time to demand the tools you need. Stand up, stand your ground, and if you don’t have the tools you need to do your job, then move on to a place that respects you and will give you the tools you require. Yes – I know, that’s easier said than done. However, I’m a guy who has quit four jobs and moved on because I needed the right tools. I’ve always refused to remain in a job where an employer denied me the right to do my very best work. Not once have I regretted taking a stand and moving on to greener pastures of employment.

With that, here are comments from Kerry Shearer regarding Social Media for Crisis Communications:

Most of your posts are absolutely spot on.

I do disagree with the premise of this post, though — that social media is essentially a lost cause and agencies should run to their websites where no one can comment!

Many public agency websites are poorly designed, complicated to use, and not geared up to handle a stream of posts, pictures, and video that agencies SHOULD be doing.

When you bring in a team of PIOs from various agencies, they will not know the content management system or how to post. But everyone knows how to post to social media sites.

In fact, social media is THE place to be; that’s where the public is during a crisis. That’s where they are looking and talking.

If an agency is not there, their voice won’t be heard. In fact, it’s critical to be there FAST with holding statements when crisis breaks out to show you’re on top of the situation.

Jay failed to mention Facebook is now rolling out Local Alert functionality to all local agencies and emergency responders so agencies can hit a button and get in the newsfeed. This is huge. You know that FB has a bunch of reps assigned in regions across the country to work with government/public agencies to work out issues and take feature requests, right?

I worked on the PIO team in the City of Santa Rosa EOC for 11 days during northern California’s historic, devastating wildfires that leveled massive neighborhoods and businesses. We used video on FB to the hilt, turning most updates and advisories into a livestream or a fast-turnaround recording video shot and edited on a smartphone.

Combined with real-time social media inquiry response from PIO team, public reaction was super positive. And we got great input through our interactions that we turned into FAQ content.

We did FB live remotes from donation centers and the local assistance center. We livestreamed community meetings.

Most agencies are good at terse tweets devoid of humanity, but social video puts a “face” to the response, shows the public you’re in it with them, is easily sharable & media can use it.

In my experience teaching these techniques to public agencies and responders multiple times a month, the social side of crisis content creation should not be minimized or overlooked. It is actually a massive opportunity.

The fear of trolls should never be an excuse for not learning and implementing these techniques.

That’s my two cents!

–Kerry Shearer

Thank you Kerry for your observations. To be clear, my post never said social media is a lost cause. My observations are that social media gives you less reach than five years ago.

My position for fifteen years is that your website newsroom should be your home base for all accurate information about your crisis. Organizations that use social media for crisis communications should provide links back to their website newsroom.

Regarding PIOs who don’t have the skills to use a content management system, my observation is that it is a skill that can be taught and learned. A PIO’s job is to be a professional communicator and posting to a website is a professional skill I expect all professional communicators to have. A simple WordPress blog is only a hyperlink away on a government website that is out of date. Just add a link that says “News Room” and provide a redirect to an external web page that can be managed by the PIO.

  • Ultimately, social media has to be a right fit and not a forced fit.
  • Social media has to be a right fit for the type of organization you represent.
  • Social media has to be a right fit depending upon the size of your communications staff.

Your website newsroom is ALWAYS a right fit for crisis communications.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

How to Use Social Media for Crisis Communications

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

Photo by Anders Krøgh Jørgensen on Unsplash

Is Social Media Good for Crisis Communications?

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

The rules are changing when it comes to using social media for crisis communications.

That is because the social media giants such as Facebook, are making it harder for your crisis notifications to show up in the news feed of your subscribers.

Jay Baer is one of the top experts in the use of social media. He recently told me that Facebook has pulled the football out from underneath you like Lucy pulls the football out from Charlie Brown just before he can kick it.

During one of his presentations, he showed a frightening graph of how since 2014, Facebook has been showing your posts to fewer of your followers and friends. They really want you to buy Facebook ads, but I’d never suggest you do that in a crisis.

You’ve likely noticed in your own social media use that you don’t see posts from as many of your friends as you did five years ago. Facebook has intentionally done this.

If you write a post and no one clicks like or comments, your post will die.

If someone clicks “like,” Facebook lets a few more people see it with each like.

If someone comments, Facebook shows it to even more people.

In other words, Facebook gives you more views with each interaction.

This means I have good news and bad news for you when it comes to crisis communications.

The good news is that if fewer people see your post about a crisis, that means fewer trolls can say ugly things about your organization.

The bad news is, if you have something important that you want people to see, fewer people will see your post.

Honestly, your website should be the main place where people read about your crisis. You own that real estate. You don’t own your space on social media. Jay Baer has always said that

You should never build your house on rented land.

Social media is rented land. On the other hand, you own your website and hopefully you have a robust newsroom where you share good and bad news alike.

When using social media in a crisis, you should never try to grab attention with a compelling headline. Rather, you should simply write, “We have an update to our event posted on our website.” Then add the link. Those who know about the crisis can learn more with one click.

Social media is a double edged sword.

Experience tells us that in a crisis, it may increase damage to your organization’s reputation and revenue.  However, many communicators think social media might enhance their corporate reputation because they are being transparent and open. The place to be transparent and open is on your website where no one can comment. Being open and transparent on social media only attracts trolls and negative comments. In a crisis, you are too busy with more important things than to try to moderate comments from trolls and nay sayers.

The reality is, a proper, honest post on your company website is as open and transparent as you can be. Use the land you own and not the land you rent.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

How to Use Social Media for Crisis Communications

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson


Are You a Social Media Hypocrite?

https-::pixabay.com:en:facebook-social-media-addiction-2387089:By, Gerard Braud

When it comes to social media and crisis communications, it’s all about analyzing how your particular audience uses social media. But before we talk about them, we should talk about you and your personal social media habits.

There are still companies that have no Facebook page, no Twitter, and no YouTube channel. Some companies have zero social media. Some companies have set up social media pages, but do not use them consistently. Some companies post frequently to one or more social media channels.

It’s time to cut to the point, especially for companies aggressively posting to social media. On a clear sunny day, when there is no crisis at hand, are you a social media hypocrite? Do you — or someone on your communications team — sit in your office each day updating your corporate social media sites expecting your audiences to follow you, when in fact you don’t personally follow any other companies?

At home, on your personal Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, do you personally follow your bank on social media? Do you follow your hospital? Do you follow your electric company?

As I was teaching my Social Media When “It” Hits the Fan workshop recently to a state-wide medical association, the audience was initially appalled that I asked if they were social media hypocrites. They then realized they were. Each has spent countless hours developing Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for their hospitals. Some had branched out into Pinterest and Instagram. Yet in reflection, they realized that they spend a lot of time posting information for their corporate social media accounts, with the belief their audiences and customers would read it, when in fact they didn’t follow their bank, doctor, oil company, etc.

The audience quickly realized that they were social media hypocrites. Many realized that they were social media and public relations sheep, setting up social media accounts because some so-called social media expert said that every company needs to be on social media or you will be left behind.

It’s also crucial that we talk about the age and social media habits of your audience to determine if social media is the right fit for your organization on a clear sunny day when there is no crisis, because this will affect whether you can reach them during a crisis.

In my research and experience, there is a large generational divide between those who use it and those who don’t, which we will address in greater detail later. The age and social media habits of your audience will help you decide when and if social media needs to be part of your crisis communication strategy. People in their mid-20’s pioneered social media behavior and made  Facebook popular. Now, as some grandparents join Facebook to keep track of their grandkids, younger participants are leaving because Facebook isn’t as cool anymore.

For the most part, it is safe to say that people under 35 are more active than those who are older. So as you decide if social media is right for you, keep this in mind. The best research on social media behavior can be viewed here.

When “it” hits the fan, you have to ask yourself, what does your audience need to know and how do you want them to behave? What is it that you want them to do? Sometimes you need to communicate safety information in the throes of a crisis. Perhaps you need to evacuate a community before a hurricane or issue advisories to your customers and employees before a bad weather event. Many times you may be communicating with your audiences because of an ugly rumor or the exposure of a scandal.

Whatever the crisis, whatever the situation may be, you need to know how to best reach your audience, and make sure you are not a social media hypocrite.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

3 Lessons the Melania Trump Coat Can Teach All Public Relations People

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson



Is Social Media Mandatory, Optional, or Useless in a Crisis?

https-::pixabay.com:en:mannequin-fashion-accessory-2566559:By Gerard Braud

Public relations professionals are appalled at the suggestion of taking a social media site dark and they tweet back to me the names of brands that they think could never go dark in a crisis. But that isn’t the question nor is it why I sparked the debate. The question is, what is right for YOUR brand or corporate social media page?

One size does not fit all in social media policy.

In this article, I will review some important highlights from a podcast I did with Shel Holtz exploring whether there is ever a right time to take your social media sites dark during a crisis. You can listen to the entire podcast here.

1) The entire world on social media is not your primary audience in a crisis. If the crisis garners coverage by the mainstream media, rapid communications to your employees with simultaneous rapid communications to the media should be done first.

In this excerpt I discuss why tried and true beats shiny and new when it comes to social media and crisis communications.

2) Just because you, as a corporate communications or public relations professional, wear out your thumbs scrolling through social media all day, doesn’t mean the rest of the world does. Study the demographics and digital habits of your audience, employees, and customers. There are many companies for which the executive staff, board members, and many of the employees still don’t use social media. E-mail is often more effective than a post on Facebook or a Tweet.

In this excerpt I discuss it further.

3) Be bold enough to consider whether your social media site should go dark because your crisis is being complicated by nasty comments by certified crazies. Many of you who subscribe to this blog are a communications and PR team of one. You have no one else on the PR staff. You should focus on the audiences that are most important and the communications channels that are most reliable. All companies should place high value on their secure website and direct e-mails to their employees and customers. Those loyal employees and customers will become your advocates and supporters on social media.

I discuss which types of brands could go dark without their audience noticing and which types of high profile brands would likely have to stay up and endure an assault of negative comments.

4) Monitoring social media in a crisis is crucial. But don’t waste time getting sucked into the vortex of trying to be a therapist who “listens” to everyone who has a comment. Don’t get sucked into the vortex of trying to respond to everyone, positive or negative. If possible, identify high-value negative stakeholders and comment that you will call them on the phone to have a human-to-human conversation. If you see that your platform is being overrun by the social media trolls, be aware of what they say, but know when to “ignore the mean kids on the playground” and focus on your core audience.

In this excerpt I discuss when you need to let the naysayers have their own discussion on their own social media site, rather than polluting your site.

In conclusion, remember that no two crises are the same and when it comes to social media, one size does not fit all.

This final excerpt looks at what you should do to prepare, long before your darkest day.


Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

3 Lessons the Melania Trump Coat Can Teach All Public Relations People

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson



Social Media at the Crossroads

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

Crisis communications expert Gerard Braud - Tweeting QuoteAs a conference speaker and presenter, my presentation for the International Association of Business Communicators has been one of the most difficult ever. Why? Because new crisis communication and social media case studies pop up daily. One of my slides says, “You can tweet your way into a crisis, but you can’t tweet your way out of a crisis.” Then like a gift from heaven, Roseanne Barr tweets an insensitive tweet, her television show gets canceled, and at the last minute, I’m having to add another case study of social media at the crossroads.

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Social media – it has all of the attributes and faults of a teenager. Like teenagers, social media can test our patience and resolve, as any parent of a teenager will attest.

We sit at the crossroads. Why?

Admit it. What you perceived as a shiny, new communications tool ten years ago, is now possibly the bane of your existence. As communication professionals and citizens of the world, most now have a love-hate relationship with social media.

Experts came from all around saying social media would allow you to engage your customers and employees. Stakeholders were asked to “join the conversation,” and “be heard.” Admit it. Now there are days when you wish you could hush the many voices on social media.

If your organization adopted social media only for sales and marketing, and not for strategic communications, you made a foolish mistake. Why? Well, when something goes wrong, consider where people go to complain. They complain on social media. If your social media channels are filled with marketing, then no one on the strategic communications side of the organization has a means to listen and engage.

Many global brands are starting to understand this. Frequently when I have a problem with an airline or hotel chain, I am able to resolve the issue with a tweet to the brand on Twitter. That usually leads to a useful direct message conversation and resolution of the problem. But the vast majority of organizations frequently use social media as a publicity channel.

You should question whether social media is now your primary “Un-selling” tool. When a customer has a complaint, they vent and rant on social media, where other customers get to see that complaint, and then share their own bad experiences. When a crisis happens, big or small, social media amplifies that crisis. Communicators must be prepared to rapidly respond to the crisis. Yet in responding to the crisis, you must use expert judgment to determine if responding on social media quells the crisis, or if it is more akin to pouring gasoline on the crisis.

At the social media crossroads, your crisis communications plan must anticipate how audiences will react to a social media post. Many in the field of professional communications believe that posting crisis details to social media and replying to each comment during the crisis is an act of being transparent. As a maverick, I would strongly disagree. Transparency can be achieved by way of a news conference and posting news releases to your corporate website. A link to video from the news conference can be posted on social media. A link to your website can be posted on social media. But a reply on social media to any comment, good or bad, can catapult your post and crisis to the top of everyone’s newsfeed, creating a vortex and volume of comments that should not be your highest priority during a crisis.

Furthermore, organizations must recognize that where once the news media was first on the scene reporting to the masses during a crisis, now it can be any human with a cellphone. By default, the person with the cellphone who is first to post images and video to social media during a crisis, becomes your default spokesperson, until you provide a better spokesperson with a better perspective and better images.

Can you produce a news release at the speed of Twitter?

Do you have a spokesperson who can make a statement at the speed of YouTube?

Social media is a double-edged sword that cuts both ways. Organizations who saw it only as shiny and new, have been cut.

Would you agree that it is time to stop the bleeding?

To gain more insights on Social Media at the Crossroads, join Gerard Braud at the IABC conference in Montreal. His session on Social Media at the Crossroads takes place Monday morning at 10:30 a.m. in the reputation track.

About the author:

Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC, is a crisis communication expert. As a journalist, he spent 15 years reporting on crises. He has reported for CNN, NBC, CBS, The BBC and The Weather Channel. As a professional communicator, he has spent more 20 years helping leaders and organizations on five continents communicate more effectively in their most critical times. This veteran communicator blends the tried and true with emerging communication platforms to create a holistic approach to communication.