Be prepared for a social media crisis

by Rebecka Freels

Your company’s reputation is quite literally priceless, which is why it is essential you be prepared to recover from a social media crisis.

Since the trucking industry shares its workplace with the public, taking social media seriously isn’t just important, it’s vital.

Be proactive and develop a plan. Here are a few things to keep in mind when developing a strategy:

Where are you vulnerable?
Begin by evaluating your brand’s risk from every angle imaginable. Be methodical in brainstorming potential issues, the risks associated with each, and how long they might take to play out.

Also, map out hypothetical situations around those issues and detail how they may unfold.

Responders team
The ability to respond quickly goes a very long way to dampen negative chatter on social media. This means you must have a response team ready to step into action with virtually no prior notice.

Identify exactly who in the organization will respond. Who responds is informed by the severity of the situation and special knowledge required to tackle inquiries. It’s also prudent to anticipate the point where a legal expert should be brought in.

Key messages
Once you’ve figured out where you are potentially vulnerable and mapped out crisis scenarios, you can begin shaping key messages. Pre-approved messages can greatly expedite how quickly you can respond to trouble, and timeliness is extremely important.

Hold fire drills
Once you have a crisis strategy mapped out, you should consider putting the plan into action by holding mock crisis response situations where you can practice the plan you developed.

Put your ears on
The Internet is a huge place and you must find a way to listen to what is being said about you at all times. Invest in solid social media monitoring tools, like Hootsuite or similar, that will help track social media chatter. Like most fleets, social channels don’t stop after 5 p.m. or on the weekend, so make sure it’s being monitored.

Manage a code red situation
When a crisis begins to brew as a result of a situation that has clearly gone really wrong, you need to implement your crisis plan and devote yourself completely to communicating.

Acknowledge what happened on social channels – starting with the channel(s) where the situation started. Don’t choose to communicate on Twitter if things blew up on Facebook.

Say sorry and mean it.

Share what you know about the situation. Pull together the facts and be prepared to share them via a link to your website where a snapshot of the situation is summarized. Be methodical. This is important so the facts remain the facts and aren’t fabricated.

Say what steps are being taken to address the situation. For example, are you working cooperatively with authorities, reviewing your internal processes, or changing company policy?

Timing is everything
At some point once the crisis has unfolded and you’ve rollout out your response strategy, you need to decide when it’s time to move into recovery mode and stop feeding the social media machine.

Once you’ve pulled the plug, it’s time to review everything said and done and figure out what you would do differently next time.

One vital rule of thumb to remember is that participating in social media isn’t about winning, it’s about guiding conversations. If you are tempted to get into a tit-for-tat approach, you are going to lose big and drive yourself crazy.


Rebecka Freels, former CTA and OTA communications director, operates a Calgary-based marketing, communications, and events practice with clients in the transport industry. Reach her at

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