The past year has brought no shortage of world-changing events and breaking news. If we’ve learned anything from a seemingly endless barrage of unprecedented events, social uprisings, natural disasters, and a failed coup attempt, it’s that we can’t predict what will come next. However, we can prepare, so regardless of the next news update, our carefully planned content won’t strike an unwanted tone.
Here are some steps and recommendations you can follow to ensure that you’re prepared to manage your email, mobile, and social media content in the wake of an unfolding crisis:
Have a Plan in Place
Develop a plan with your team that outlines what steps need to be taken and who’s responsible for what tasks in the event of unexpected bad news. Start by ensuring that no one person is the sole password holder for a platform: at least two members of your team should have access and admin privileges to all of your social media accounts, your website, and your email and mobile platforms. Use a secure password sharing program like LastPass to share login information with your team. These steps are critical for ensuring that, in the event one colleague isn’t available, you’re still able to change content quickly.
Delegate responsibilities up front so your team can respond rapidly. For example, if a team member scheduled a Facebook post that’s no longer appropriate, they should know that they’re the one responsible for pulling that content. Identify a team member who can be available outside of work hours, including on weekends, to cancel and change content in case of an emergency. If a team member is going on vacation and will be scheduling content to post while they’re away, have them brief their colleagues on what’s planned so everyone is in the loop and aware of what might need to be changed should something come up.
Reacting to a Crisis
When you become aware of breaking news, consider how this news impacts your organization’s work. This can take many forms: a politician’s sudden death could make your blog post interrogating their record suddenly in poor taste, a tweet poking fun at Florida may be insensitive if the state is being pummeled by a hurricane, and your business-as-usual content may come off as tone-deaf in the light of a national tragedy. In the midst of a developing situation, cancel your scheduled email and mobile broadcasts and pause your social posts. Review ongoing digital ad campaigns and consider if pausing them is appropriate. If you work from a content calendar, now is not the time to be beholden to it. Work with your team to handle content on a day-to-day or even hour-by-hour basis.
One of the most critical components of successfully navigating a crisis is knowing when and when not to engage. A sudden catastrophe could be an opportunity for your organization to do good and advance your mission. For example, if you’re advocating for stricter firearm regulations, sharing thoughtful content and actions, like a contact-your-legislator campaign, in the wake of a mass shooting can help give your audience a place to process their grief and outrage. However, if not carefully considered, you can risk coming off as opportunistic and inconsiderate.
Not every organization needs to weigh in on every event. If you’re actively fundraising, consider taking a break to promote groups that are serving those directly impacted by the crisis. Lift up the voices of those on the front lines by sharing posts from these groups. As you resume your typical posting in the aftermath, closely monitor your comments and replies to gauge how your audience is responding and adjust your approach accordingly.
Lead With Empathy
When responding to a crisis, consider how this tragedy impacts your audience, your colleagues, and you. While the carefully laid plan we recommended above will make your rapid crisis response more effective and efficient, it’s important to be prepared to adjust as needed if members of your team are struggling in the wake of this event. Check in with your team members and ask how they are feeling and what they need.
Think critically about the content you chose to share and be careful not to overload your audience with heavy, negative posts that may serve to exacerbate their feelings of gloom. Share responsibly, especially if your content includes graphic or violent imagery. And remember to check in with yourself. Give yourself time to process the news and feel your reaction. You can’t do your best work if you’re feeling overwhelmed and burnt out — take proactive steps to care for yourself so you can stay healthy and ready to steer your organization through the current crisis and toward brighter days ahead.