Perspectives

Managing Corporate Social Media Channels Through the Coronavirus Crisis

There will be a wide range of issues that your business or organisation will need to manage due to the Coronavirus. Some of them, admittedly, potentially more problematic than your corporate social media accounts. However, how you manage your reputation and your ability to communicate through this issue will remain critical. .

Therefore, I have looked at some of the key principles that you may want to consider in the coming weeks, in relation to the Coronavirus and your digital and social media communications.

Overview

Conversations around the Coronavirus and your company, that occur on digital and social media channels, have the potential to cause serious reputation harm, given the possible unchecked/incorrect nature and speed of which information can be shared. Therefore, you should have in place a robust monitoring and response mechanism , to ensure you know what’s being said and shared online. 

You should ensure those managing your channels (be they colleagues or external agencies) are aware of any new procedures you put in place and are clear about who they need to speak to for additional information or clarity about the current situation.

In most cases, a clear set of pre-approved responses in line with the most commonly asked questions should be prepared and used where appropriate, with a view to not negatively amplifying a situation beyond its current status. Although, care should be applied to ensure these answers are updated and remain in line with the latest information you have. You may feel pressured into responding quickly – do not respond unless you are confident the information you have is up to date and doesn't contradict what others parts of the organisation may be saying via different channels.

Monitoring

You should be monitoring online for any mention of your company, office locations, terms of reference and/or brand along with key words and phrases that might be used alongside ‘coronavirus’ and its associated nomenclature. If you don’t have social listening or monitoring capability, then I advise you seek out support, recommendations and advice on how this need could be met. If you do have monitoring set up, ensure, these new search terms are tested before they are depended on to give you real time results of what’s being said. 

Triage Responses

You may currently see little or no online mentions, if your business has yet to be directly affected. However, this is likely to change over time as the virus impacts more businesses and locations around the world. Therefore, now is the perfect time to set this additional processes and monitoring up, whilst volumes may still be low and manageable. 

I believe, where there are mentions and conversations, they will broadly start to fall into one of the following four groups: 

1) No harm – a mention of you that is factually correct, non-damaging or benign. An example of this is perhaps where you have decided to implement a home working policy, and that is simply being repeated online in a tweet or social media post.

2) Factually incorrect – a mention that is not meant to do damage but carries incorrect information. An example of this could be where there has been a case of an employee, contracting the virus, but their location or numbers involved is perhaps incorrect.

3) Critical but true - In fluid situation, there are bound to be mistakes made as we face the fallout of more cases and the impact that has on a business. In this instance there may be third-parties that may be critical, but ultimately, not seeking to damage your reputation.

4) Trolling or deliberate spread of misinformation - an example of this could be a deliberate and obvious exaggeration or lie, an attempt to damage your reputation, cause fear or panic, or anything that threatens your ability to operate.

Governance around how you respond

For those charged with managing your corporate social media channels, a clear set of rules of engagement will be key in ensuring you respond effectively and efficiently.

  • For conversations or mentions that fall into the 'No harm' category, they should be checked, collated and passed on in with the appropriate level of analysis.
  • For those in the 'Factually incorrect' category – decide what the threshold is for responding and ensuring that all responses are consistent, approved and not likely to lead to further confusion or more questions. (For example, if someone with very few followers decides to post and it has little or no engagement, is there any merit in replying?).
  • For mentions that fall into the 'Critical but true' category, consider if engagement/response on the platform is likely to resolve the issue or makes things worse. What lessons have been learnt and can you talk about what's being done to rectify the situation or ensure it doesn't happen again.
  • For anything falling into the 'Trolling or deliberate spread of misinformation' category, firstly analyse the impact of the post. Has is been seen by a sizable audience, is it being repeated elsewhere for example? Secondly, if it is damaging enough, use the platforms tools to report it and in the most serious of cases, where it could have a serious impact to others, consider sharing the information with relevant authorities.

Specialist Groups or Individuals

Decide if there are individuals or groups of users that require specific responses (e.g. a member of the media may ask a question, and the appropriate response might be better suited to another communication channel). Decide how your social media managers will record and pass these questions on to the relevant teams. They should also acknowledge the question or comment in some way, so the individual knows their comment or question is being looked at. Decide beforehand what the acknowledgement response should look like.  

Resource

If volumes remain low – or your business or organisation isn't directly affected, your existing social media and digital resource should be able to cope with any questions, conversations or comment. However, consider how this could change (if you were directly affected) and what pressure/impact that might bring to the day to day running of your digital and social media accounts.

I recommend you look at ensuring you have a robust emergency resource plan in place that involves a wider group of people, ready to manage the channels and respond to multiple conversations and questions.  Also, check you know who has access to your channels and that there isn't a single point of failure (e.g. only one person currently has access to your social media accounts). This also includes knowing that the appropriate people have access outside of the office if you move to home working. 

Each company will have different needs and requirements based on their location, size, resource and existing social media estate. However, I hope this article gives a good starting point for any conversations or future decisions you may have to take. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments or get in touch.

This piece was originally posted on LinkedIn here.