Crisis Communications for Social Media

15th January, 2022

This article is paired with Crisis Communications – A Toolkit

“There is no crisis management today without a full understanding of how to use new media to listen to conversations around your brand in real-time, and understand what you do and don’t need to respond to.”
Chris Syme, author of ‘Listen, Engage, Respond’


Social media is a common starting point for crises and an effective outlet for anyone dissatisfied with your organisation for any reason. Since tweets, in particular, can go viral very quickly, this is an area where you need to be able to act fast.

The three stages of managing an evolving situation on social media are Monitor, Triage, Respond & Recalibrate.


Monitoring can look very different depending on the size of an organisation – at the smaller end of the scale, regular check-ins by the person responsible for social media management can suffice. There are also some tools available to facilitate this:

TweetDeck is easy to use and shows all your mentions in real-time against search parameters – but it can’t replace human attention.

Setting up Google Alerts can also be useful for picking up on emerging issues.

In the monitoring phase, set guidelines for what might trigger a response, what those responses might be, and who else needs to be informed.


If an issue arises, you then need to decide if and how to respond.

If someone is making a legitimate complaint about something specific, this is a customer service issue and should be dealt with promptly (apologising where appropriate), regardless of whether it is likely to turn into a bigger issue.

If it’s not a customer service issue, then you must think more deeply about the nature of the problem and how to deal with it. As ever, preparation in advance will help, especially if it is around issues covered in your scenario planning. You may already have draft responses ready to go.

Questions you might ask include:

Do you need to respond? Does the social media account have influence, with a large number of followers?

Are they followed by influential figures such as politicians and journalists?

Does it relate to a significant issue, for instance, a video or photo showing impropriety?

Is this an issue that will be contained within a small bubble (as tends to be the case with targeted trolling)? In this case, not responding to a number of tweets on a theme may remain an option. But don’t ignore it if it’s likely to spill into the mainstream.

Respond and Recalibrate

When you have decided on your tack and given a response (or not), then return to the monitoring phase. Is your response well received? Does it cause the issue to go away? If not, recalibrate.

Remember that no plan is static. Whether your crisis lasts for three weeks or many months, at some point you will need to change some elements. Consider:

Revised messaging

Different channels

Switch from a reactive to proactive response

Ask whether you have the right spokesperson for the situation

For a more in-depth look at dealing with Crisis Communications – showing how social media fits into a wider communications plan – see our related resource, Crisis Communications – A Toolkit.

This article was written by Kate Smith of Goosegrass Culture.

Adapted from content originally created and delivered by:

  • Patrick Harrison Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs at Weber Shandwick
  • Peter Rogers, Associate Director, Crisis Communications, Weber Shandwick.
  • Media Trust.


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