“Everyone should have a crisis plan for social media.”
Having a social media management system is absolutely critical in our day-to-day, but it becomes invaluable in crisis response.
Lisa Stryker, Duke Energy's Social Media Manager, should know. Her company has the responsibility of owning and operating nuclear, coal-fired, natural gas-fired, and hydroelectric power plants in the Southeast and Midwest, as well as renewables, and they serve about 7.4 million customers.
“It's our responsibility to make sure we're ready for everything,” she says.
Their crisis response plans cover the big stuff, like operational issues with their power plants and natural disasters. They plan for storm recovery responses and major storm restorations, but they're also prepared for a social media crisis.
If their social media accounts get attacked, hacked, parodied, or mirrored, Lisa's team has a plan. If something personal is accidentally posted to their corporate channels or if a message is misconstrued, they're ready.
Lisa's team even exercises drills for social crisis response.
Make sure leaders are well aware of what your plans are and why you're planning that way before a crisis hits.
They enlist mock social media representatives to send fake messages to her team so they can practice responding to a crisis. She says the purpose is to recreate the urgency that occurs with the crush of volume they feel during a crisis.
“Of course, you can't possibly recreate the true volume we would see for a major crisis, but it gives us a little bit of a taste, and we've actually learned some things from those drills,” Lisa says.
For example, they've decided from their social crisis drills to not post live from press events. Rather than having live documentation of what's happening, she says they want all eyes on the news conference so people can see it first hand.
“Speed is so important in a crisis.”
Lisa explains, “During a crisis, people flock to social media for answers and to check in to make sure we're on the job.”
So they draft a wide variety of basic acknowledgement messages to get information out to their audiences as soon as possible. They also work with social media management tools to triage the incoming messages for crisis response. “Having a social media management system is absolutely critical in our day-to-day, but it becomes invaluable in crisis response,” she says.
One of her main challenges in crisis response is drafting and getting approval for messaging as an event unfolds in real time.
It can be difficult to get approval quickly in a large company. So Lisa recommends circulating your crisis response plan around and socializing it to your leadership. She says they should understand what people expect from crisis response and your plan to meet those expectations.
“Make sure leaders are well aware of what your plans are and why you're planning that way before a crisis hits so you're not trying to explain that in the heat of the moment.”
“Nothing is ever fast enough for social media.”
Resist the temptation to get it out too fast. The responsible thing to do is to wait until you have the right information.
“And every time we have another storm recovery response, we have a greater response from customers than the last time. So as more and more people take to social media to get answers it scares me a little bit,” she laughs.
But Lisa explains that even under the pressure to respond quickly and at scale, consistency and accuracy are important. For example, even if the team can't respond to every incoming message, they still collect and read them so that they know what proactive content to create to accurately answer common questions or concerns later.
“Resist the temptation to get it out too fast. The responsible thing to do is to wait until you have the right information and not to send out anything speculative or premature,” she says.
“It's unfair to your audience to provide anything other than what you can verify.”
Lisa's been a member of SocialMedia.org since 2014. Follow Lisa on Twitter and ask her about that time she met Grumpy Cat.