Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Does Your Small Nonprofit Have a Disaster Plan - for Social Media?

Detail from a work by Ian Thomas

What do

have in common?

Both of them were caught in a social media crossfire.

The hotel got a little snarky when the bad press came in. The food nonprofit took the objections to their partnership with CFA seriously, but had to compromise to honor their agreement and keep faith with their mission and the people who depend on them. I doubt either the hotel or the nonprofit were entirely happy with the way things worked out.

Putting aside the particular issues, how do you think you would have done in a similar situation? It could happen. An Olympic athlete ended up not going to the Olympics because she made a joke on Twitter.  One joke and something she had been hoping for, working for, and looking forward to for years was put out of her reach. Was the joke racist? Certainly several people thought so, including her own country's Olympic Committee.

Not To Scare You Away

Scaring you away from social media isn't my objective. And it would be simplistic and useless to wag my finger and say, "Watch yourself." You could be ten times as careful as you have been in the past and a social media fire could still happen to you and your small nonprofit. The better you get at using the different platforms, the more you use them, the better the chances that you'll be embroiled in a imbroglio.

What's Your Plan?

Obviously, you can't prepare for details, since the details will change, but you can have a plan in place for how - and how quickly - your small nonprofit will respond to a stream of disconcerting, if not bad, press. Other things to have in the plan:

  • Who will handle/direct the response?
  • Who will handle/direct the response if the first person isn't available?
  • What channels will you use for the response?
  • Who and how will you monitor the continuing flap and how your response is being received?
  • How will you stay on message?
  • How flexible can you be?

Practice, Practice, Practice

Emergency responders have exercises for anticipating and working through crises, like earthquakes, hazmat dangers, disease epidemics. They choose a scenario and then work through it with all agencies and hospitals that would be involved. If your small nonprofit is a food pantry or clinic, you already know this and may have your own disaster plan. Why not do the same for your social media crisis?

Heaven forbid you should ever need it, but if that time ever comes, it's better to be prepared, isn't it?

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