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5 strategies for handling a crisis on social media

May 5, 2022
A talk by Dennis Owen, Group Manager Social Media for Cathay Pacific Airways, on crisis management using social media applicable to any organization.
Image by SpinWeb

Last month, we attended a talk by Dennis Owen, Group Manager Social Media for Cathay Pacific Airways. Owen spoke about the “evolution of airline crisis management using social media.” His insights can apply to any organization. This post is a recap of our key takeaways.

1. Be proactive — Have a crisis plan before it happens

For example, many airlines today have inflight Wi-Fi. When there is an emergency on a flight, some passengers might try to record the incident using live video. It is important for airlines to decide whether they will leave the Wi-Fi on or turn it off during an emergency. Airlines should have a clear policy and rationale behind either decision.

2. React fast on social media

When a crisis occurs, people usually post to social media immediately. Therefore, you need to have a message from your company out on social media within 20 minutes. Your first message doesn’t need to have a lot of information. It can simply say “We are working on it and will get back to you.” However, you need to follow-up on this within an hour.

3. Monitor others and react

People who are near the crisis might post their own videos or broadcast live by using tools like Persicope and Facebook Live. Traditional media may also post their own updates. For example, a van driver for an airline recently fainted while he was driving on the tarmac and caused some damage to an aircraft. However, CNN reported it as a “Plane collides with van.” In these types of situations, your goal should be to draw people back to your website and away from speculation. Owen recommends having an “advocate” available such as someone from the safety team to speak to the public about the crisis.

4. Communicate with employees

During a crisis, employees need to keep the whole business moving forward. Owen recommends the following

5. Test and learn

Anytime another company in your industry has a crisis, watch how they handle it. Follow their best practices and learn from their mistakes. Put together a Crisis Toolkit document and keep it updated.

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