Do You Have A Social Media Crisis Plan?

What can nonprofits learn from Apple and Taylor Swift? A lot, actually. You probably heard about the Taylor Swift-Apple showdown. If you haven’t, here is a brief summary: Taylor Swift posted an open letter to Apple on her Tumblr page explaining why she would not upload her music to Apple’s new streaming service. She asked Apple to reconsider their plan to not pay artists for music streamed during the free three-month trial period. She asked them to change their policy.

Why I am talking about this? Because this could have been a major crisis for Apple. Taylor has more than 76.8 million followers on Twitter and 74 million likes on Facebook. When she speaks, people listen. Immediately after posting her blog, other artists started speaking out against Apple. This could have ruined Apple Music before it even began. But it didn’t. Why? Because Apple responded quickly and efficiently. Just hours after the letter was posted, Apple reversed their policy and announced they would pay artists for their music during the trial period. Apple had a social media crisis on their hands, but they handled it perfectly. They came out looking good and Taylor Swift was declared music’s most powerful voice.

Not everyone can afford to make drastic changes and reverse their policies like Apple did, but all organizations should have a plan for responding to social media crises. Social media spreads news like wildfire, and it’s up to you to make sure you retain control of the messaging your organization puts out there.

Here are three important elements of a social media crisis plan:


Transparency doesn’t mean your organization should expose all its warts to the public. It means making an effort to be open and show a willingness to communicate, even in times of crisis. Silence is a sign of negligence and will only cause the situation to escalate. You must be prepared to have an open dialogue. When they had a potential crisis on their hands, Apple didn’t stay silent and ignore the problem. They responded to Taylor’s letter and changed their policy.

Honor immediacy

You need to plan for an emergency or crisis so that you have well-crafted and sensitive responses to situations that can be difficult and stressful. The time to craft these statements is not when you or your organization is in the middle of a crisis. Draft generic statements that can be modified to respond to a variety of crisis situations. Remember, even if you don’t have all the information, it’s better to say you are trying to find out rather than offer no statement at all. A timely, “we are looking into it,” shows that at the very least, you acknowledge the situation and are concerned. How you follow up once you do have more information will shape how people perceive your organization.

Remember — it’s not about you

During a crisis, it can be hard to understand that the public doesn’t care about you or your organization. They want to know what happened and what you are going to do about it. Make sure you are prepared to respond accordingly. A classic example is the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and how BP mishandled the early responses.

Planning for a potential crisis is key. Having a response ready will give you a moment to regroup while showing the online community you care. Protecting your organization’s brand requires thought and planning, especially in the fast-paced world of social media.

Do you have a social media crisis plan? We can help you create one!


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