In PR we’re used to preparing executives or company spokespeople for media interviews and press conferences. We’ve also put our crisis plans in place to be ready for unexpected emergencies. Our position is to prepare and be ready for all types of public reaction to company communications. And, with social media keeping our constituents actively engaged in our web communities, by now, we should have our social media comment response charts handy. A comment response chart should be developed and included in a social media policy to address all types of conversations from general company inquiries to crisis escalation.
Whether your organization is just starting out in social media, or you’ve been actively engaging with audiences, it’s critical to develop a comment response chart so employees know how to participate in different types of situations. Below is a checklist of questions and when answered, they will help you to develop your chart so that you can (1) recognize the different types of conversations, (2) pinpoint situations in social communities in terms of the level of crisis escalation, and (3) identify who in your organization needs to be involved in the discussion based on the level of escalation.
The more you can prepare the organization to understand the different types of conversations and create a best practices approach to address unexpected issues, the better the organization will fare to avert a crisis and keep a situation under control. Here are several of the questions to help you frame out your chart:
- What types of general questions can all groups or personnel within the organization address?
- If it’s a positive, general comment should employees propagate the comment by sharing with the network, or retweeting on Twitter?
- What types of specific questions need to be answered by an SME? Who are the individuals in the company designated to answer those questions?
- Who in the organization should only answer specific questions regarding company policies or an official company position on an issue?
- What types of questions will be handled by a specific department? For example, determine the questions that sales will answer vs. those answered by customer service. What types of questions will be handled by PR?
- Predetermine the types of questions that your organization does not need to answer, but rather should be answered by the community because it’s better to have a community member answer for credibility purposes.
- Who takes care of the spam on a Facebook page or spam posted in a Facebook or LinkedIn Group? Should the spam be deleted?
- How do you handle abusive questions? Is this person a troll that you monitor but don’t respond to and just delete the comment? Or, was this person once a member of your community and has influence with other community members? Do you just delete the comment and then handle the situation offline, if you have this person’s contact information?
- Who in your company handles the dedicated complainer? How will you evaluate if this person is an influencer or a member of the media? Who is in charge of correcting the situation and making sure the issue is resolved?
- What do you do if a complaint is incorrect? Who is in charge of gently explaining the correct facts? And, if the situation is incorrect, who will apologize and provide the correct information.
- Who in your organization will handle the bad experience complaints in social communities? Will you designate certain personnel or departments based on issues in the past that may occur again due to the nature of your business?
- How will you correct any misguided information in a community? What does your policy say about correcting the information and who from your organization will be responsible for making the correction and monitoring the situation?
- Have you identified the various levels of comment escalation, for example, how do you determine your level of response from general communication to full blown crisis escalation? What types of conversations are handled your social media manager and when you do involve your PIO and other members of the crisis team (especially if the crisis escalates into a media crisis as well)?
By answering these questions, you should be able to develop the framework for your comment response chart. But, don’t stop there…as you do your planning every six months or each year, audit the types of conversations in the past and add to your chart to proactively prepare for new community conversations as they occur.