Posted on February 1, 2012 · Posted in Management

Every business and non-profit needs a social media disaster plan, case in point the Susan G. Komen foundation and their deafening silence during a major brand crisis.

For those of you who are unaware of what I’m talking about the organization decided to cut funding to Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings. The move has touched off a huge online debate and their brand is being hammered in the court of popular opinion.

Rather than try to diffuse the situation with a release to clarify what happened or a blog post with links to other resources, they have instead decided to remain silent as the negative @messages and vitriolic Facebook posts pile up.

Are they panicking? Sure. Are they probably holding midnight meetings and 4am conference calls to their PR team, sure. But with every minute that goes by their brand is eroding and their foundation is taking a beating. Even a tweet saying “We plan to clarify the situation with a full explanation” is better than silence.

So what should your crisis plan include?
- Before you reach the disaster stage, if you know an upcoming decision will be controversial prepare releases and coordinate with your social media managers to respond if they are able to address users individually (TSA actually does a great job of this)
- Speaking of responding, have a guide in place for how to respond (language, tone, etc …)
- Make your PR team available because media requests will pile up fast
- Be prepared to change permissions if you have online profiles where users are allowed to create content directly on your page
- Have monitoring software in place, look for inaccurate information to shoot down anything blatantly false
- Diffuse and try to shift the conversation if possible (in this case list of cancer screening resources)
- Respond to anyone who makes the top tweet list through @ messages and even personal contact
- Be prepared to launch PPC campaigns / sponsored content to tell your side of the story
- Only use the nuclear option (deleting your online presence) if the crisis is likely to result in the permanent closure of your business