Before a Crisis: Preparing Your Social Media Strategy

Checklist 3 min
Follow this checklist to ensure your social media strategy is prepped, effective and ready for any crisis.

Time is of the essence, especially if that time is during a crisis. It is likely you will use social media and online platforms as the first resource to react and put out information. Because social media provides speed, reach and direct contact with audiences, it is a key tool to facilitate dissemination of command information and provide a place where people can receive timely updates.

Develop the social media strategy as part of your crisis communication plan. Having a set strategy that the team is comfortable with will help your unit be better prepared to use and manage responses during a crisis. Use this checklist to prepare your social media strategy for any crisis situation.

  1. Establish a command presence on social media
    1. Identify relevant social media platforms to use during a crisis
    2. Obtain leadership buy-in of relevant social platforms
    3. Ensure platforms are set up and not blocked on government computers or networks
    4. Build a trusted channel of communication for your primary audience
  2. Establish roles and tasks on your Crisis Management Team
  3. Create the crisis plan and ensure coordination with appropriate agencies
    1. Research real-world examples to identify what type of events qualify as a crisis (natural, technological, humanitarian, foreign attack, peacekeeping)
    2. Set benchmarks for qualification of what is identified as a crisis
    3. Determine which crises need to be addressed on social media and address why/why not
    4. Define scope, level of serious risk and potential weaknesses for each of the crises
    5. Ensure this is outlined in the overarching social media strategy
  4. Identify key messaging and actions to take during a crisis
    1. Align all message points with the unit's core values and priorities and route for approval within the EOC and CAT, as necessary
    2. Develop a separate unique value proposition for crisis communication; keep this on file at the EOC and CAT for easy reference
  5. Create communication delivery guidelines to ensure expectations are met, continuity in communications and to manage potential failures
    1. Define the rules and process to follow when communicating with social media, key stakeholders and the media
    2. Identify guidelines for members outside the team advising how to respond to inquiries and where to channel requests
    3. Establish a process for communicating updates via an official website or other digital channels not covered by social media
    4. Determine a process to ensure message synchronization exists between all platforms
    5. Prepare applicable emergency response kit(s) of digital assets and resources
    6. Set network-specific guidelines for communicating on social media and backup plans in case there is a failure with the platform(s)
    7. Formulate potential responses to post for ideal, worst and likely responses, as well as responses to the public's responses
    8. Consider if you will use a live social media broadcast for the initial message, which adds credibility, allows real-time collection of queries and data and can be augmented with safety messages and other important information
    9. Identify alternative internal communication methods between the team in case the primary method of communication is disrupted
  6. Actively monitor social media traffic and conversations to identify key performance indicators (KPIs)
    1. Follow the defined monitoring process
    2. Collect and analyze this data regularly to inform the response during a crisis
    3. Stay aware of current issues in the media that could lead to issues becoming a crisis
    4. Keep commanders informed on what the public response and sentiment of the unit is
    5. If available, establish a relationship with the monitoring service that could be leveraged during a crisis to reduce the stress of monitoring

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