Being a community manager is a 24/7 job, and can be unpredictable. This past week, #CMGRclass learned about how to handle crises. While every community manager will have different needs, there are some basic ways to understand how to approach crisis communication from within a community.
The biggest lesson learned from Heather Whaling’s presentation was that Community Managers need to be present and attentive. In her presentation, Whaling details how a community manager was able to detect a situation happening between another branch of his organization and the community, get in touch with all parties, and diffuse the situation by understanding the problem and guiding the parties to a better solution.
We’ve seen it countless times: people trying to get exposure by taking advantage of current events. It might work for a little bit, but before you try it for your community: is it a strategy that makes sense for you?
Before you join a conversation, make sure you and your community a place in it. Understand if the topic is relevant to your community before your add your two cents or speak for your community. Generally, attempts at leveraging real-time events for your community won’t go over well if you don’t have anything of value to add.
A good tip from this article is to respond to actionable conversations. Creating guidelines for what counts as an actionable conversation within your community is a good idea, so that you can avoid both getting too personal or reaching too far in a conversation topic.
Be Right (Not First)
Everyone has a first impression or reaction to new, surprising, or controversial information. The key to reacting from a community manager point of view is to approach all new information with skepticism. Always ask questions about the source of information, even if something is labeled “confirmed.” It’s better to be right than first.
In the past, I’ve attended CERT (community emergency respond training) sessions as a social media manager for a small college. My team went through a hypothetical emergency: a dorm catching fire.
As the exercise went on, we were told different information from various sources. Sometimes the information was emotionally heavy (rumored student fatalities), and it was difficult to keep information like that aside – on the chance it’s true, you want to let people know.
Although the practice situation was dire, the safety officials emphasized that in any situation the communications team should only release information confirmed by law enforcement officials or any other kind of official source.
For organizations, releasing only official information protects the credibility of the institution as a whole, as well as the communications team, and avoids the spread of rumors.
As a community manager, it’s important to know how to identify rumor and truth – and understand what level of source or confirmation turns a rumor into a credible source of information.
You know Murphy’s Law? It’s the theory that what can go wrong, will go wrong.
Do you know your community? Do you have a plan to follow if it turns against you?
As a community manager, there will be issues that make you community go absolutely crazy. No matter the likelihood, always have a Total Disaster Meltdown Plan in place. Know who’s in charge, who you can count on to deliver the right information (even if it’s just yourself) and know who you can call on to provide the right information. Have a plan before things go wrong, so that when they do, you’ll be prepared.
Have more advice to add about crisis communication? Have you been through a communication crisis yourself? What helped you, and what do you wish you had known before the crisis hit?