How to Use Social Media for Crisis Communications

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC 

One of the best new social media tools for crisis communications is Facebook Live. Second in your crisis communications toolkit should be YouTube Live. Third would be any of the other live platforms on social media channels where your audience might follow you during a crisis. For some of you, LinkedIn Live or Periscope on Twitter are a good fit.

You should especially embrace live platforms during serious weather events and natural disasters. For example, this is being written during the first week of September 2019. Annually this is the most active week of hurricane season. Last week we saw the devastation of Hurricane Dorian. With the massive number of communities threatened, Live video would have been and should have been in the tool chest of every community, every utility company, every law enforcement agency, and many companies.

If your company, community, or organization could be affected by a hurricane this season, live video becomes a great way to manage the expectations of your audience before a crisis. Live video becomes a great crisis communications tool during the crisis, and after the event is over, you can inform your audience about how the event affected them in their relationship to you. For example, you can broadcast information about how long before roads are opened or how long before power is restored.

A perfect example would be that an electric company or any government agency could use live videos to warn their audiences about the need for disaster preparation. They could give guidelines for evacuation or precautions. Most importantly, they could use live videos to manage the expectations of which creature comforts might be lost as a result of the hurricane.

Keep in mind, this is also true all winter long when forecasters predict freezing rain, ice storms, blizzards, and other winter storms. This is also true all during tornado season.

Weather events can become crisis events.

Weather events cause a loss of creature comforts such as heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, lights, and all things utility related in a weather event.

People might not evacuate during a hurricane out of fear that they could die. However, they might evacuate – and be less of a burden to you after the storm – if you clearly inform them of how miserable they will be without lights, refrigeration, and air conditioning.

Also remember, that when the lights go out, people turn to social media for updates. Your live videos can and should be their updates.

During Tropical Storm and Hurricane Barry in July 2019, I did a number of live news videos on Facebook Live and YouTube Live so you can see examples of what you need to be prepared to do.

  • Your lighting needs to be good enough for us to see your face.
  • Your audio needs to be good to overcome wind noise.
  • Your content needs to be brief and to the point.
  • You can’t afford to mess up because you are live.
  • You get one chance to get it right, so you better practice.

My videos are often near perfect because I have lots of practice. For 15 years I was a TV reporter, doing live reports daily. Chances are I’ve been on TV live up to 5,000 times.

The real question, is how good can you be live?

If you’d like help being great when you shoot videos live and pre-recorded, check out my program called Weathering the Storm. It is a great hands-on, interactive course to help you make the most of social media and videos during a crisis.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Please Pick Me to be Your Media Trainer

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

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