At American Meetings we have a proactive social media strategy, especially around crisis management. Most attendees are on social media and it’s critical to be prepared when a crisis hits so that the correct information is being disseminated online. The American Meetings Network at www.network.americanmeetings.com/ is just part of how AMI communicates information about our events. The social network includes meeting planners and suppliers that partner with AMI throughout the year and here we post emergency updates if necessary. These updates are then blasted on all our social media platforms instantaneously. That’s the how but in a crisis the questions become, what and when to communicate. Whether you’re dealing with national news, local weather, an industry shakeup or any other scuttlebutt planning is the key to navigating a crisis.
Here are 5 steps to deal with a social media storm at your meeting.
1. Prepare a Plan
Before a problem comes up, have a social media response plan in place. That way your team members are not shooting off the cuff when an issue arises. This plan should be in writing with a step-by-step list so that anyone can implement it easily.
Some questions that you should consider, include:
Who is responsible for making the communications decisions on site?
Who will implement the updates?
Which communication channels will you use?
What is your Plan B?
2. Confirm the Problem
First, you need to make sure that the situation at hand is truly a crisis. Many people react to situations that may be benign. Pull your team together and make sure the issue is real.
2. Gather All The Facts
Be sure that everyone handling the emergency is present and fully understands what’s happening because you don’t want miscommunication on your channels. Ask: What happened? Why? Who was involved? What happens next? What will we say?
Gather all the facts first. Understand your options and make sure in advance that the meeting planner has the authority to act on those options.
3. Empower Your Team
Attendees aren’t the only ones who have social media accounts. Once you have a plan in place, it does no good unless all members of your team understand it and know what’s expected of them. Your staff needs to be prepared before a crisis strikes, so that just like you, they understand what to do and will be empowered to help the cause.
5. Communicate Swiftly
The most important thing you can do is to respond calmly and quickly with the facts. The first hours are crucial because people are waiting direction from the organization. The longer you wait, the worse it is and the higher the likelihood of your audience making inaccurate guesses based on hearsay.
While the dangers in managing a social media crisis are clear, every problem brings with it an opportunity and some organizations may find a chance to take a negative experience and spin it into something more inspirational. If you plan well with your team, a social media crisis could prove to advance your mission and inspire your audience.