During a Crisis: Social Media Strategy Guidelines

Checklist 2 min
When a crisis occurs, follow this checklist to ensure you don't miss a step while executing your social media strategy.

Social media can be an effective tool during a crisis to facilitate communications quickly and directly with audiences, especially when a crisis kicks off. It is easy to panic. Stay calm, attentive and do your best to not increase the panic with misinformation or delay in keeping the public informed. Following these general guidelines and sticking to your social media strategy will build credibility for the unit and the DoD, while meeting the needs of the public. Use this checklist to ensure you're making the most of social media during the crisis.

  1. Determine if the situation meets predetermined criteria of a crisis that requires addressing through social media
  2. Establish control
    1. Pause any scheduled posts across all platforms to not appear insensitive
    2. Ensure Crisis Management Team knows their roles and are in sync, specifically including: coordinating information and receiving updates, creating content for new posts, monitoring social media and approving or obtaining approvals from higher authorities as necessary
    3. Research event, collect reliable data and determine what is releasable
    4. Determine which platform(s) are best and available to use as communication channels to distribute information to the affected audiences
    5. Publicly acknowledge what is happening to deter audience from going to other sources, even if there are limited facts available
    6. Draft post(s) to communicate relevant and timely information as it is released, keeping the public informed of developments as they occur and remembering OPSEC
    7. Quality check each post for tone, grammar, content and adherence to guidelines for release and DoD policy before posting to the appropriate platform(s)
    8. Inform audiences on other platforms where to find updates on the event
    9. Actively monitor and listen to what people are saying, being prompt to respond to questions as accurately as possible
    10. Post a long-form response on the official website for reporters and key stakeholders so they can find the comprehensive story
    11. Maintain the long-form response with timestamped updates above the initial release to encourage platform use


  3. Assess mission impact through data

    1. Monitor platforms to collect comprehensive data if mission impact is detected
    2. Compare the time periods of normal operation against that of the crisis to gauge the severity of the communication environment, this includes: lost followers, specific complaints and the amount and resonance (viral reach) of negative sentiment surrounding the mission
    3. Determine what and when responses were most effective during the event
    4. Establish a measurement scale to evaluate the negative conversations generated
    5. Determine how to measure impact on overall mission sentiment
    6. Determine how to measure overall mission impact of the crisis over time
    7. Create an analysis for leadership to make changes in communication as the crisis is happening

  4. Reflect on responses through a team hot wash

    1. Evaluate messages and responses of what worked and what didn't
    2. Determine the strongest aspects of the crisis plan
    3. Identify the parts of the existing strategy that were not as helpful or effective
    4. List any processes, guidelines, templates or systems that need to be revised or added
    5. Identify potential long-term impacts