Gone are the days when news of a crisis would be splashed solely across newspapers and network news. Social media has made the communication field shift and broaden. More people than ever are getting their news from social media – and a crisis can go viral with the push of a button. This virality may make social media seem like the enemy for companies and their leaders, but CEOs can leverage social media as a powerful resource in their crisis management tool kit.
The number of CEOs who use social media has increased significantly over the past decade, and for good reason. Executives who establish a strong and consistent social media presence offer a human touch to their company’s brand, bolster consumer engagement and trust, and can position themselves as thought leaders in their industry.
Here’s how CEOs can benefit from implementing social media in managing crises:
Reach your audience.
You can spout your crisis response on network news until your blue in the face, but if your audience doesn’t turn the TV on, your message will be missed. Crisp’s 2019 Crisis Impact Report shows that 86% of people get news from their phone, and 53% get news specifically from social media One benefit of using social media as part of your crisis response is that it’s the platform your audience is most likely to find out about the problem and look for your response to it.
Speak as a trusted voice.
When there is a crisis, shareholders want to know there’s a plan, employees need assurance of strong leadership, and consumers are evaluating company reputation. Social media lets leadership connect directly to these stakeholders in a meaningful way. A post on the company’s Twitter or LinkedIn accounts will not suffice in the face of a crisis; in fact, Crisp reports 59% of consumers think crisis response messaging should come directly from the top.
CEO statements on their personal social accounts are also viewed as more credible than quoted statements shared by news media. When CEOs use their social accounts to respond to crises, they are providing a personal and authoritative perspective that carries more weight than a faceless company handle or quoted commentary. When crisis hits, people look for a credible voice of leadership - social media gives executives that platform.
Beat the clock.
When it comes to crisis, you’ve got to act fast. The majority of consumers expect to hear a company’s response to a crisis within an hour. This short time frame is where the instantaneous nature of social media is beneficial. While messaging is organized for more time-consuming channels, the CEO can quickly address the crisis on social media.
Make no mistake, the social media messaging needs to be carefully crafted and drafted with the help of communications/risk management professionals; however, if the CEO provides a prompt statement on social media, it will buy more time to determine the scope and longevity of the crisis.
Responding to a crisis isn’t just about getting your message out there – it’s also about listening. Social media lets you listen and engage with stakeholders’ response to a crisis, and your handling of it, in a way that other communication channels can’t. You can survey social media for potential crises that may arise, engage with stakeholders to understand their experience and perspective, and track how your team’s response is being received.
Despite the advantages of social media in crisis management, many CEOs are still hesitant to dive in. However, it may be more of a risk for executives not to engage on social media - as you are not able to control the narrative as well or get your message across to the audiences that matter most.
So, while incorporating social media into your crisis management plan may seem like a risk, here are some best practices you can employ to make it a risk worth taking.
Establish a social media presence.
You’ll be much more comfortable deploying social media during a crisis if you’ve had practice using it when the stakes aren’t so high. The benefits associated with CEO social media usage significantly increase over time. If you’ve already established yourself on these platforms, you are more likely to be seen as a positive impact on company reputation, credible in the market, and effective in managing crises.
Make a plan.
The best way to handle a crisis is to prepare for it, which extends to your crisis communication plan. Companies should already have a crisis response plan in place – and social media’s role should be included. Consider the types of crises your plan accounts for and work with your communications and legal teams to draft posts ahead of time.
Know when to share.
Not every problem requires a response from corporate leaders. CEOs’ words carry a lot of weight; therefore, you want to reserve their input for when it really matters. Part of your crisis management plan should detail when situations constitute a response from the CEO; for example, if there’s a need for resources to be immediately diverted, normal operations has been disrupted, or if people are harmed or are in danger.
CEOs have a million things on their plates, especially when dealing with a company crisis. The good news about using social media as part of your crisis response, is that you don’t have to do it alone. Consult with professionals who are well-versed in crisis communications so you’re able to reap the benefits of social media messaging without the risk.