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How To Deal With The Press / Media in a Social Media Crisis (Part 2)

17 Sep

Last week I declared Mondays as “Q&A Monday”, and this week I owe you the second part to Evan’s question!

To refresh your memory, Evan’s question was as follows:

“I’d be interested in hearing how you would deal with the press/media in a social media crisis. In particular, how do you deal with the press when they start tweeting and Facebooking as well as blogging their story about a brand in crisis that they are busy covering.”

Last week I broke Evan’s question into two parts:

And today it’s time for part 2, so without further ado…

2- Communicating with the press/media in a crisis, via social media

The first thing I want to address is time.

Make no mistake about it. Today, it’s all about speed with the majority of reporters – and people in general. Unfortunately, often if you don’t meet their need for speed, they’ll turn to get their answers elsewhere. Again unfortunately, that elsewhere will most likely be a place that you have little to no control over. However, even with this in mind, it is NOT in your best interest to start shouting out answers to questions, or commenting on events taking place before your crisis team has had the chance to establish the real answers to those questions. Although this needs to be done in the lease amount of time as possible, releasing important information before it has fully been assessed can come back to bite you.

Mistakes such as declaring a wrong total number of deaths, or worse, declaring the names of deceased who are not actually deceased, are extreme examples of what mistakes have been made when brands feel rushed into releasing important news or updates to the public or the press in a crisis, before they’re truly ready to do so. Not a fun mistake to be made.

So, that said, it’s important to be aware of the timeline pressures the press and media impose on you in a crisis, but not to succumb to sticking your own foot in your mouth. A good way to buy your team (a short amount of) time is by releasing, what I like to call,  your first response.

Guidelines to communicating with the press in a social media crisis

Now that you’re aware of the timely pressures that the press and media may try to impose upon you, as well as the negative repercussions to succumbing to those pressures before you’re ready, let’s take a look at some guidelines to follow when dealing with the press or media in a social media crisis.

Here are some guidelines:

  • As soon as you become aware of the crisis, clearly state on your channels that you’re aware of the situation, that you’re looking into it and that everyone can expect to hear directly from YOU the second you know more. Also known as your first response strategy, this will help in buying you time to grasp the situation.
  • Update the press and public on all channels seeking info or talking about the crisis in regular intervals. Even if you have no new news to report, let them know this. Every 30 to 60 minutes is a good time interval for consistent updates.
  • Monitor the online discussions and respond where necessary. Refer people to your channels for updates and do your best to intercept the rumors or speculation before they escalate or begin to go viral.

But what about when the press begins to actually tweet, Facebook and/or blog about your crisis?

  • Monitor their reports to make sure they’re accurate
  • Offer them an interview with the spokesperson assigned to the crisis
  • Refer them and their audience to the channels on which you are dedicated to releasing timely updates
  • Comment on their blog and Facebook posts, with the right tone, and provide links to more detailed explanations or official statements published by your brand
  • When possible, move the discussion back to a platform that you have control over, i.e. your Facebook page, your blog, etc. Keep the discussion 2-way and keep providing real-time updates in consistent intervals so as to keep the (including their) audience coming back to YOU.

Advice from a top media trainer

Brad Phillips, of, is a media trainer that I personally have learned a lot of unique tricks and tips from in regards to dealing with the media on many different fronts. Since he’s a pro on the subject, I also wanted to get his input. Here’s what Brad wants you to know about dealing with the media in a social media crisis (followed by an awesome link that I highly recommend you read!):

“First, I’d say there are three truisms for social media and crisis communications:

  1. The public and the press may learn of a crisis affecting your company through their social media networks before you even know there’s a problem.
  2. People will begin discussing (and speculating about) your crisis before you’ve had time to obtain the facts.
  3. Despite those challenges, you need to use your social media channels to immediately correct misinformation and establish yourself as a primary source of accurate information. That means having a good monitoring system in place to alert you to crises early, and it means communicating before you have all of the facts.

I’d make one other point: Some of the most important work regarding social media in a crisis happens before the crisis. If you’ve already established a reservoir of goodwill with your followers (including the press), they are usually more likely to deem your communications credible in the early stages of a crisis.”

Check out Brad’s post on the 7 Rules to Remember When a Crisis Strikes, for even more tips on the subject!

And there you have it!

Tips to dealing with the press and media in a social media crisis.

What about you? What tips and lessons have you learned when dealing with the press during a social media crisis, or a crisis of any kind? Share your experiences with me below!

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2 Responses to “How To Deal With The Press / Media in a Social Media Crisis (Part 2)”

  1. Apostolos Lemonidis September 18, 2012 at 8:03 am #

    Very insightful Melissa!!!
    Thank you

    • Melissa Agnes September 18, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

      Im glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for the feedback :)

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