by GK Strategy 6th April, 2018
3 min read

Taking a social media first approach during a crisis: the basic elements

In crisis situations, social media should be every business leader’s weapon of choice. Fast, decisive action is essential to rebuilding confidence, managing expectations and capturing some control of the news agenda. Social media beats all other methods for doing this, hands down.

Picture it. A major event has or is currently happening. It may impact upon a company’s customers, concern those who regulate an organisation, or it may be an issue that has wide public safety or scrutiny ramifications. It’s going to be news, and it can be guaranteed that people will know within a very short time period.

Such events can make or break reputations. Leaders need to seize control of the narrative and demonstrate that they are in control and taking responsibility. It is no longer good enough for leaders to hide behind statements released many hours later; in most cases, taking a social media first strategy will be the right call.

Social media offers the fastest way of letting journalists know where they can get credible information from. Similarly, it enables you to get factual lines out that quash rumours and build confidence. You no longer have to rely on journalists writing their subjective stories – people can hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. This should be seen as an opportunity.

In the background, it is also sensible to pursue traditional routes. Build your first media statement and send it out through pre-built press lists. Depending on the severity of the issue, you will need to consider how much time you spend on this.

Social media accelerates the speed at which speculation and rumour can take hold so posting a response within the first hour after any negative coverage breaks is crucial. If possible, you should do it much sooner. If you fail to do this, you’ve lost the opportunity to take control of the narrative, and you may be left defenceless.

If the media pick up stories about your organisation, social media is the best place to rebut any claims made against you, as well as directly. The more robust your approach, the more likely you are to get quoted in the coverage, helping you to bend the narrative in the right direction.  Through using social media you can speak directly to your target audience and key stakeholders – avoiding total reliance on the media (Trump has led on this).

During crises, it is often the instinct of leaders to hunker down, say nothing, and wait out the storm. You need to fight this urge and use social media as your loudspeaker. You don’t need to get bogged down in online conversations, or correcting every inaccurate or hurtful comment, but you do need to take the opportunity to get your voice heard in the most efficient way.

Companies and business leaders can only lose out by not taking a social media-first approach to managing crises. The tools are at our fingertips and more accessible than ever, we just need the confidence to use them.


The  Oxfam crisis – which we covered in a recent blog – highlights the danger of inaction. After Oxfam’s failure to warn other agencies of the actions of their disgraced aid workers was covered in The Times, it took the charity three hours to issue a defensive statement. A quick look at their twitter timeline is enough to see that Oxfam consistently failed to recognise the value of the free platform social media provides. An apology by CEO Mark Goldring was not tweeted until almost a week after the crisis made headlines, by which point the reputational damage was done.

To learn more about GK Strategy’s issue, crisis and reputation practice, contact ned@gkstrategy.com

To find out more about how onefourzero’s digital due diligence can help you identify opportunities for growth and potential risks, contact fleur@onefourzerogroup.com

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