Why Having A Social Media Plan Is Crucial In A Crisis.

By Chase Ford

Using social media during a crisis is a fast and effective way to reach your stakeholders and minimize the potential impacts of a crisis. For social media to be effective in a crisis plan, you should set out a clear social media procedure. This procedure should include when, and how often your company is going to be issuing updates and what information will be shared. Being timely is one of the most important things to consider during a crisis. Since there is an overwhelming number of participants on social media if you don’t tell your story first someone else will. In turn, this can bring more issues to the table, as you will lose control over your story and what information is distributed.  

Consider Boeing, after a long few months dealing bad PR from the 373 max, it should be obvious to have an effective social media crisis strategy. When a Boeing 737-800 crashed three minutes after take-off in Tehran, Boeing had failed to utilize social media to effectively communicate this crisis to its publics. As seen on Boeing’s twitter, the first message came out at 8:30 p.m. pacific standard time when the plane crashed 6:44 p.m., 6:14 a.m. local time. That left two hours for the public to react, form opinions and for social media to construct a narrative around the crisis.

As TV news networks picked up on the story and obtained new information, Boeing had yet to release any update, which was met with massive backlash in the replies. As expected it got to the point where Boeing potential could not have controlled the conversation, even if the company had tried. Seven hours after the initial statement from Boeing, the company released a statement of its condolences. Boeing had still neglected to provide its publics with any new information surrounding the event.

At the time, there was political conflict between Iran and the U.S. which may have prevented a steady flow of information to stakeholders. However, the story was still running on almost every major news network, with timely updates and professional opinions on the situation.

As the mantra of crisis communication goes, “tell it first, tell it fast, tell them what you’re going to do about it.” Boeing elected to stay relatively silent during this event which ultimately caused more backlash than it had already been facing. Any comment from the company would have been better than no comment. In this situation, Boeing should have been more prepared and better equipped to handle a crisis and deliver timely updates to its publics.

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This Article Has 3 Comments
  1. Ben Cooke says:

    I agree that having a plan in place is essential for any business to have in the event something goes wrong with their product, whether it was their fault or not. However, planning is only one part as businesses must also proactively listen and monitor situations that may concern them. In Boeing’s case, perhaps as a result of the previous issues they had dealt with for the 737 Max crashes they either were going through some crisis comms adjustments or just dropped the ball with regards to the Tehran plane crash, but either way it provided further insult to injury for Boeing. This is a good case to bring up good crisis comms is a necessary insurance policy to stop the bleeding if any company is under fire by the public for wrongdoing or any incident involving their product/service.

  2. Chad Orras says:

    This is an insightful post, Chase. I think you used an excellent example with Boeing. They have seen a number of issues over the years, most with poor publicity. One of the key issues to look at is how the company is structured. They seem to be very conservative, and as a result, might require a lot of approvals before being able to post anything online. This lack of trust with the social media team probably played a big role in how long it took for them to respond via social media. They should definitely look to make more preemptive measures moving forward so they can stay ahead of the news channels and avoid further damage to their brand.

  3. Ashley Peters says:

    I too agree that being timely when a crisis occurs is one of the most important aspects of crisis management. As we saw with the Kobe helicopter crash, it can also be highly problematic in certain cases like it was in that situation. The media was timely in getting the information out right after it happened but the problem was that the information was not accurate and it had been released prior to informing the Bryant family of the loss. In the case of Boeing, they did too little too late which is a great example of when and how crises such as this one should properly be executed.

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