Does your crisis communication plan include social media?

By Susan Sullivan

Rutgers University’s Department of Communication performed a five-point-in-time study in 2005 to look at how old and new mediums of communication are utilized in times of crises. Back then, they found that about half of organizations had incorporated the Internet into their crisis response. The Institute for Public Relations updated its Crisis Management and Communications study last year to incorporate more information on social media and Internet tactics to communicate with the public when a crisis happens.

Susan Sullivan is an assistant account executive at Wordsworth Communications.

Susan Sullivan is an assistant account executive at Wordsworth Communications.

How long has it been since your organization updated its crisis communications policies?  How much of yours includes social media? Here are some points to remember if you haven't practiced your responses recently.

1. Adapt your response to the new two-way street of communications. People will reply to your tweets and posts in real time. Expect to factor this time into your plan (or even assign someone to take care of these questions for you).

2. Tailor messages to the medium. Do you have a younger demographic following you on Twitter and an older demographic who will see your crisis messages on television?  Know your audiences and their preferred methods of receiving the news. 

3. Be honest and transparent. In a time of a crisis, the public will look for answers and information.  If you're not the one giving it, or if you give faulty or unsupported information or advice, you run the risk of appearing untrustworthy, and the public will look for other sources for information.  Yes, today's communication is real-time and a two-way street, but make sure you're not putting speed before correct and honest information.

4. Rely on effective communication methods. Facebook and Twitter are proven avenues to get messages to a large audience during a crisis. If you aren't sure that Snapchat is the best way to reach people in an emergency, don't waste time on it. No matter what the emergency, make your messages efficient and wide-reaching. Don't forget about the effectiveness of traditional media like television and radio. 

Has your company or organization recently responded to a crisis with a mix of old and new media?  Share what worked for you - or didn't. Tweet us @CincinnatiPRSA.