I see it almost every day somewhere on the internet.  A brand, be it a personal brand or a company, faces some kind of crisis that it’s clearly obvious that they have no plan in place for and no chance of surviving with their reputation 100% in tact. Chances of coming through the crisis in a better position went out the window when they failed to plan months ago.

For years now as I have traveled and lectured, I have recommended that companies create two critical documents when they decide to get into social media: a social media policy that covers the company and it’s employees and a social media crisis response plan for at least the top five crises that the company can expect to face.

Why these two documents? First the policy creates a level of expectation for how the company and the employees are expected to act. Employees are far and away one of the best resources in social media for a company to use and most do it poorly. Enter Addvocate which was founded and run by Marcus Nelson who I’ve been fortunate to hang out with several times. Secondly, the crisis response plan removes having to make decisions in the spur of the moment and clearly defines who has what responsibilities. This can be absolutely crucial in reducing response times and getting information out to the public and traditional media.

Getting out ahead of a crisis can be one of the ways to greatly minimize the impact that it will have.

Finally, by describing what happens when everything fails it actually frees up marketing manager, strategist and anyone else tasked with social media responsibilities because they know what will happen if everything goes wrong. By creating these outer boundaries it frees them up to be more creative inside the proverbial box.  Ever had that moment when the instant that you stopped trying to stretch the situation to meet where you think it should be and found a solution that required almost 1/5th the effort? I certainly know I have.

In future posts I’ll explain what exactly lives inside a crisis response plan that is centered on social media and the key components that I have found while working the plethora of employers and clients that I’ve had over the last 5 years.

In the meantime PR360 publicized an infographic that Entrepreneur.com picked up and caught my attention titled “8 Steps to Planning for a Social-Media Crisis.”  While I don’t agree with every step that they put inside it, is definitely taking the conversation inside social media in the right direction.  We as social media marketing professionals need to be ready to face the worst as well as the best and most of the time one appears in the wake of the other.