In public relations, we often learn about crisis communications. Crisis communications for your brand/client, that is. This specialized area of the industry is usually reserved for protecting and defending your client/brand when unforseen incidents occur that threatens their reputation.
But what about crisis communications outside of that? What about when your nation is facing a violent attack, such as the tragic events that took place in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada last Wednesday? October 22nd, 2014 will now always be a solemn day for Canadians, the day a gunman entered our parliament, and the day we lost a soldier all too soon.
How does a brand react in a situation like this? How do you react to something that not only affects your brand, but every single person in the country? What is the correct protocol? Brands need to be mindful and sensitive to situations like this. Here is a quick guide to help you and your brand cope with a national crisis online.
1) Absolutely Zero Scheduled Tweets
When a crisis of this nature occurs, it takes precedence over everything. The very first thing your brand should do is either delete, edit or postpone all of your auto-tweets, scheduled social media posts etc. You don't want to be the insensitive brand that is talking sales when the country is going through a crisis, just because you forgot you scheduled tweets for that day.
2) There Is Only One Conversation That Should Be Happening
After you ensure that you have no forgotten auto-tweets going out, clear your schedule of Twitter chats. Do not, I repeat, do not participate in a Twitter chat on the day of a crisis. There is only one conversation that should be happening and that is about what the nation is experiencing. There is nothing worse then scrolling through your newsfeed for updates on the incident when you see so and so talking about how to better promote their brand. Participating in a Twitter chat at this time is undermining the issue at hand and incredibly insensitive.
3) If You Don't Have Anything Nice To Say...
This is one of those times where it is better to say too little rather than too much. Do not start analyzing the situation at hand. Let the media, police, and everyone else, do their job. It is not your place, as a brand, to scrutinize or dissect the incident and its implications Remember, we are discussing public relations. Our focus should always be our relationships. What you should be doing is caring about is how people are feeling and what they are going through, not trying to play investigator.
4) Be Mindful of The "Media"
Unfortunately, on social media the lines between reporters, journalists and Joe Blow too often get blurred. It is hard to distinguish fact from fiction, especially once everyone starts retweeting information they saw. As a brand, you need to be wary of this. Take the time to trace anything you do share back to a credible news source, otherwise you are simply fuelling the fire and feeding rumours.
5) Stay Human
The point of social media is keep us connected and to share our thoughts, feelings and ideas. You probably don't know how to react yourself, let alone as your brand. It is ok to take off your business hat for the day and stick with your personal social media accounts to express how you're feeling. It is also ok if you do feel the need to reach out to people and clients you care about through your brand, as long as its in a respectful and mindful manner.
A great example of brands helping community healing is how local yoga businesses, such as Lululemon and Elevate Yoga, are coming together to offer free classes in the wake of Wednesday's event. Mediation and yoga are often outlets for fear, anger and worry, and have been known to help the healing process. If you have something you can offer to help people begin healing and come together as a community, then by all means, go ahead. Don't be scared to reach out in a crisis, people will appreciate it and the key here is to truly care.