Social Media for Crisis Communications: Effective Communications for Critical Times (Like When “It” Hits the Fan)

By Gerard Braud (Jared Bro)

Social Media Gerard Braud

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It is a challenge for public relations and crisis communication. In every workshop I teach, people ask, “How should a public  relations team, company,
non-profit or government agency best use social media for crisis communication?”  They ask it from New Orleans to New York and everywhere in between.

I respond by asking, “When ‘it’ hits the fan, and you need good crisis communications, is social media right for the company or organization you work for?”

In the nearly 2 dozen blog entries I will offer you in March, I’ll give you quick observations each day. Your job will be discernment. Your assignment is to discern what is right for you, your PR team, your company or organization, and your audiences.

You are invited back each day to spend a few quick minutes absorbing the perspective shared here, then decide what is the RIGHT fit. (Good ‘ol option B is to just pick up the phone and call me at 985-624-9976 and we’ll talk it out now.)

Too often public relations communicators are like sheep in the social media world, following the flock, taking the advice of consultants who tell you that you MUST use social media. I say bull! I’d rather see you as a lone wolf charting your own course of action than to see you as a sheep.

Make no secret about it, I have a love – hate relationship with social media. In certain situations it is the right fit and in certain situations it is a wrong fit.

But before we get into the specifics of social media, we need to agree upon the rules of engagement “When ‘It’ Hits the Fan.” As we go through the various steps we’re going to outline for you, I’m going to give you a specific list of action items to place on your to-do list.

First, let’s agree that in a crisis, the organization you work for has an obligation to talk with several key audiences, which include employees, the media and your other stakeholders, which could be your community, families of employees, government leaders, etc. If you work for a school, the audience extends to students and parents. If you work for a hospital, the audience extends to patients and their families. A retail company needs to talk with customers. A non-profit organization needs to talk to contributors. Each type of company or organization has a unique set of audiences.

That being said, today’s assignment is for you to make a clear list of audiences you must communicate with in various types of crises, so you can decide how you can best reach them and how they want to get information.

Put this on your to-do list as step one… make a list of audiences, how to reach them, and how they want to be reached. Set aside 5-15 minutes and do this right now.

Tomorrow we’ll talk more in-depth about your audiences and whether social media is an effective way to communicate with them in a crisis.


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