Many organisations are investing in social media channels to complement existing outreach such as face-to-face engagement and below-the-line advertising.
This trend has gained traction in 2020 due in part to the socially distant world brought about by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Organisations recognise that a strong online presence helps them stay connected to their stakeholders and reach out to a wider audience whilst building brand equity and mindshare. What is less prevalent is the use of social media channels in crisis response.
When a shipping company faces a maritime-related incident or an internal crisis such as a cybersecurity breach or employee misconduct, social media channels can greatly support a crisis recovery plan.
During a crisis, it is critical that organisations continue to ‘listen’ and connect to their customers, and to engage in meaningful two-way conversations that demonstrate empathy and compassion.
Organisations may consider using software tools – offered by companies such as Sprout Social and Brandtology – which use artificial intelligence to monitor and make sense of what customers are saying about their brand during a crisis and what their concerns are.
Good listening (also known as sentiment analysis) removes the guesswork from the equation and helps an organisation understand which stage the crisis is at.
Social media channels provide organisations with the option of adding a human touch to a crisis response. This could be in a form of a blog post, a fireside chat or a ‘Ask Me Anything’ session where senior management answer questions on what has happened, why it happened and what the organisation is doing to make things right.
By communicating proactively, organisations can demonstrate that they are not only open and transparent during a crisis, but also willing to take responsibility and be accountable to their stakeholders and the community at large. Such efforts may go a long way towards rebuilding stakeholder trust and brand equity.
When a crisis is at the early or initial stages, an information vacuum usually emerges very quickly if the organisation involved is unable to provide timely information. When that happens, organisations find themselves having to compete with the grapevine and alternative non-official sources of information.
Worse still, organisations who are late to the game may find the narrative of the crisis being shaped by others.
Social media channels provide organisations with an opportunity to manage the information vacuum during a crisis before others do. By publishing information on their official social media channels, organisations can set the record straight and address any misinformation and distortions that are typically seen in social media chatter.
A crisis can be just as traumatic for the affected stakeholders as it is for the organisation. The last thing the organisation wants to do is to sound tone-deaf or insensitive to their audience.
The same principle applies to individuals as well. Former Governor of California and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger drew flak when he posted a video in March 2020 – taken at his luxury mansion with his mini donkey and mini horse – urging people to stay home amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Organisations should review their scheduled social media posts and remove any content that could strike a discordant note with their customers or anything that could generate poor optics.