In times of crisis, one of the first places people turn is social media. It’s where you can expect the latest information at lightning speed. When things are uncertain, best practices for communicating and engaging on social channels can be your trusted guide, especially in situations like we’re in currently that are changing so quickly.

Here are four communications-centric approaches to ensure your social media strategy supports you – rather than hinders you – during this crisis of epic proportions.

  1. Pay attention to the news. Seems obvious, right? COVID-19 has taken over news networks, but the news and tone aren’t the same every day. Monitor news stories, media trends throughout the day, every day, and adjust your social content accordingly. Think about it this way – you wouldn’t pitch a reporter without having an accurate, vetted angle and then reading their most recent stories to confirm what you’re offering is appropriate and relevant. Stories are changing every few hours at times with the COVID-19 news landscape. Early on, news coverage focused on companies implementing new sick leave policies, a few days ago we were seeing a multitude of stories focused on major philanthropy with big corporations almost one-upping each other with donations, and now the coverage tone has transitioned to employee frustration about unsafe conditions or lack of hazard pay. Don’t be afraid to constantly adjust your content and tone so it’s most appropriate.
  2. Be empathetic. Right now, our world is full of unknown outcomes for every industry and many livelihoods. People are anxious, scared, sick, hopeful – you name it, it’s out there. What’s unique is the entire world is going through this same experience together. When you’re crafting social content during COVID-19, use empathy to guide your content. Now isn’t the time to force a message because you need to drive customers. If you post something disingenuous, your own audience will be the first to call you out for capitalizing on the situation and you’ll lose their trust. Leading with empathy, however, allows you to engage with your community and be there to support them through words, imagery and video. There’s no need to be scared and pause all social media communication. In fact, that can lead to a serious decline in brand awareness, but developing content that’s truly helpful and compassionate is the best start.
  3. Reaction is everything. Now that you’re monitoring the news and developing appropriate content for the situation, pay attention to the reaction you get once everything goes live. Are followers commenting with a negative or positive tone? Are they supportive or are they blasting you? Or, is no one reacting at all? If people are reacting negatively, take note, address it and adjust your approach moving forward. If people are applauding the content, continue supporting followers in a way that’s building community and make those key messages a priority in your other communication. If you’re getting radio silence, then your content might be completely off base. People aren’t afraid to be vocal on social platforms, so it’s a great way to test out content and identify what your audience needs. Once you’ve analyzed reactions, apply your learnings to the rest of your media outreach and employee-centric communication as well.
  4. Arm your community managers. If you get a reaction from the content, don’t leave your audience hanging. Make sure your community managers are looped in with the same key messages everyone else on the brand is working from. It’s important everyone is sharing the same information, no matter who from the company is communicating or through what platform, to avoid misinformation and confusion. Keep internal communication strong with community managers too. They’re on the front lines of your brand perception, engaging with your most vocal audiences, and can provide vital, directional insights to executives from evaluating reactions to your content.

Linhart PR develops integrated communications strategies for clients, blending social media, earned media, internal communications and crisis experience, which can support brands during times like these. To learn more, please contact me at egarten@linhartpr.com.