How Social Media Plays a Vital Role in Crisis Management and the Impact of a Rapid Response Protocol

Time and time again, we witness companies struggling to respond effectively on social media during crises. This often stems from not having a well-prepared Rapid Response Protocol. Keep reading to understand why this is crucial for 2024.

CEOs certainly don't need to dive into the intricacies of daily community management, whether positive or negative for their brand, but they are thrust into the limelight when a crisis occurs. Take the Boeing news in early 2024, where part of a 737 Max 9 plane blew off mid-flight. After this incident, Boeing CEO David Calhoun pledged to approach the fallout "with 100% and complete transparency." Ironically, he doesn't have a LinkedIn account, and Boeing has said nothing about this on their LinkedIn page. There is a significant disconnect between what they perceive as transparent communication and what I would have suggested - doing a couple of interviews on traditional media is not 100% and complete transparency.

In times of crisis, the importance of a business leader's presence on social media escalates significantly. As highlighted in a PwC report, a striking 78% of consumers are more inclined to trust a company whose CEO is actively engaged in communicating via social media during challenging times. Crisis management companies might raise eyebrows at what I’m about to suggest, but in my opinion, it's a significant missed opportunity for Boeing's CEO to not launch on LinkedIn now amidst the current surge of negative publicity. Why? Firstly, when under intense scrutiny, there's no room to hide or fabricate excuses for critical issues like a malfunctioning aircraft door. You have to confront the situation directly. Jump in and start the response protocol; you've got to own the situation because you don't have any other choice. This not only helps in managing the immediate crisis but also plays a vital role in rebuilding trust and reputation in the long run. The absence of such engagement can further harm a company’s image and delay the recovery process.

Responding to customers for brands extends beyond major incidents; it's also about how businesses engage daily on social media. Customers expect prompt responses on social media, with 40% wanting replies within an hour and 79% within a day. However, only about 50% of businesses meet these expectations, indicating a significant gap and a need for improvement in customer service approaches.

The absence of a rapid response protocol stems from a common misperception regarding our approach to social media. We tend to see it as a one-way broadcasting platform, which often leads us to ask, 'What should I post?' instead of contemplating, 'What should our response be?'. We must also address the question of what to post when shit hits the fan!

There is a positive in all of this, McKinsey points out in this report that customers spend 20 to 40 percent more with companies that respond to customer service requests on social media. After all, let's not forget the absolute king of KPIs when it comes to communication is relationship building! Companies neglecting customer responses on social media lose 15% more customers annually compared to those who engage.

Therefore getting leaders and teams on board with a 2024 Rapid Response Protocol is crucial. Here are the key points to convey its significance to your stakeholders.

1. Information Verification

This is already a significant issue even without AI being fully rolled out, and deepfakes only populating a small corner of the internet. We know how quickly misinformation can spread on social media. Therefore, it is essential to verify and clarify information promptly. This will become a bigger issue year-on-year, and 2024 is the final year to get ahead of the technology. Maybe I'll set up a Linkedin account called David Calhoun to prove this point!

2. The Impact of a Rapid Response Protocol

A rapid response protocol is a pre-established plan for swift and effective crisis management. Chances are, you don't have one. It's crucial proactive work that saves time and boosts confidence in handling unexpected issues.

3. Timely Decision-Making

During crises, fast decision-making is crucial for addressing point 1 swiftly. Achieving this requires having point 2 in position. Speedy communication on social media is key, especially during crises when every moment matters for minimising impact. Evaluate your business for potential real-time crisis impact, as few industries remain immune.

4. Consistent Communication

A clear protocol ensures consistent communication across all channels, preventing confusion and reinforcing transparency and accountability. You have to do this and not just say this @Boeing.  Consistency may seem simple, but it's a powerful tool for reducing tension and negativity over time.

5. Coordinated Response

Rapid response protocols promote collaboration across departments and stakeholders, optimising resources and expertise for effective crisis management. This demonstrates competence and garners positive reactions from both customers and public markets.

We implemented the above strategy with a client at GH05T dealing with a substantial increase in negative social media responses. After six months, we observed a noteworthy 37% decrease in negative sentiment on Facebook.*

Protocols should not be static; they evolve based on the lessons learned from each crisis. Implementing a rapid response protocol enables organisations to adapt, improve, and learn from past experiences, enhancing their ability to handle future crises more efficiently and successfully.

The vital role of social media in crisis management is evident. With a strong rapid response protocol, organisations can use social media for quick communication, community engagement, and resilient crisis handling. As technology evolves, integrating social media into crisis management is crucial, ensuring trust and reputation while safeguarding stakeholder welfare.

I'm quite certain that Boeing will never speak to me after this, but hopefully, that's offset by you reading this and taking some actions to create your own Rapid Response Protocol.


I'm quite certain that Boeing will never speak to me after this, but hopefully, that's offset by you reading this and taking some actions to create your own Rapid Response Protocol.

P.S. If you are interested in the subject of crisis management, then I highly recommend this book.

*Get in touch with me if you're interested in reviewing the full case study on this project

Written by Adam Biddle

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