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1. Map out possible scenarios
There are infinite possible crises your business could face but just a few that are actually quite likely. Know them, plot how they could play out and rehearse for them

2. Have a comms and governance structure
Too often in a crisis brands go silent and it’s likely to be because they’ve got a 140-character post drafted and it’s going through rounds of feedback and approval from across the business. Avoid this by planning in advance (based on the scenarios above) who’s responsible; who needs to be involved and what approval structures or autonomy will be in place when the crisis hits

3. Monitor for early warning signs
Few crises crop up out of nowhere with no warning. A thorough social monitoring system is essential, as is making sure digital is well connected to the rest of the business. This will ensure the team gets a heads up on any operational or commercial issues that are likely to escalate

Taking action

4. Act quickly
As with point number two, don’t spend hours debating the perfect response because by then you’ll need a different one to explain your absence. If the situation is too complex to address swiftly then use a placeholder and let your audiences know you’re coming back

5. Keep everyone in the business informed
Avoid lack of continuity or the approach being questioned half way through by sharing the strategy, policies and status updates

6. Know your audiences
Take lessons from previous issues and make your judgments about how to talk to them based on what you know about their triggers and what they value. Remember they are people and that they will value humanity from you, a statement suitable for formal channels of communication is not appropriate in a direct conversation with your customers

7. Allow customers to have a voice
Don’t feel the need to explain or defend if customers are just venting, you can acknowledge grievances or give space rather than stifling with explanation

8. Question the possible reactions your actions could prompt
Even when your judgments are based on sound knowledge of your audience, second-guess them. Think through the different ways in which your response could be received and the reaction it could provoke

9. Be as open as possible
Where there aren’t commercial or operational sensitivities try to share as much as possible with your audiences about what went wrong and why. But be sure to avoid blaming anyone one or anything else or seeking sympathy

Thinking ahead

10. Review and prepare to adapt your approach
Keep listening as your crisis evolves. A minor development or change in tone of the audience reaction could be your cue to change strategy

11. Ask yourself how you could turn a negative into a positive
This is not always possible but some of the most successful brands in social have cannily used a crisis as an opportunity to demonstrate above-and-beyond customer service or brand personality.

For support in preparing for a social crisis, including training and simulation please contact us at