3 Rules for Community Managers During A Crisis

Jessica Payne

Social media stops for no man, but what if resources are suddenly scarce due to an unforeseen crisis? Here are 3 things you can do to keep the community humming along even if the “front office” is closed.

Spotlight Emergency Information - Don’t make community members hunt for contact information during this confusing time. This includes call centers which may have been re-routed due to the furlough. But this could also be new community management handlers, new hours or phone numbers. Make sure extensions and phone lines (including voicemail recordings) are all updated, and post information on the homepage, wall or hero image of social media channels. Set up auto-responses to reiterate where the most important information can be found quickly. Don’t worry if this changes the look/feel of the page – now is not the time to worry about aesthetics, which you can quickly undo upon return.


Leave a Gone Fishin’ Sign – Crises are by definition unpredictable, but PR pros know to plan the best they can for them. This must include a social media gameplan. Make sure you post clear signage on your digital channels announcing that the community is working on the issue and to check back for further updates. Or, if no other coverage can be arranged in the community, announce that the community won’t be actively managed for the time being. Most will understand and appreciate the notice especially if information points them to alternative communities or contacts. Ensure this is also included for auto-responses, as well.


Prepare for Housecleaning - Passions run high during a crisis and at some point, your social media channels may become someone’s platform of choice for some to voice their frustrations. Be prepared for such comments and try to mitigate frustration by hitting points one and two. Still, if you anticipate a barrage of comments, consider disabling them indefinitely (announcing to the community that you’ve done so) as your team wouldn’t be able to respond anyway. Have a plan in place to quickly answer questions and enable comments upon return. When in doubt however, have someone “man the lines” to triage important information, even if only to at say that they appreciate any and all feedback, and are doing the best they can to improve the situation.


For some departments, they may have not had time to implement the three rules above, but there is still time. If your digital community resources are suddenly shuttered, see if interim coverage by an agency or partner is possible (double check this is allowed). If not, make sure you implement the above rules to ensure your community continues to add value to those who rely on it as a resource.


Everybody will feel some impact of a crisis when it hits. When you’re busy fixing the issue and leveraging your resources, don’t forget about your social media channels and community who may need more clarity and care than ever.


Do you agree? Leave a comment or tweet @jpaynebu

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