How Crisis Teams Can Benefit From Adding a Social Media Manager

Five ways your crisis management team can include and use social media managers in communications.

March 13, 2020

I learned a lot during the seven years I spent managing social media daily for St. Lawrence University. I learned how to listen and engage our community, and I learned their likes and dislikes and preferences for content delivery. I also learned that the content, posts and messages I shared with them were incredibly powerful. They can make or break my community’s trust in my institution. It was a pressure I felt each day and every time I hit send.

Now I am in a different role, and while I no longer am responsible for the daily management of our social media channels, I oversee the person who is. My new work includes more crisis communications, and I’m often in the room that discusses, drafts and shapes critical messages being sent across campus and beyond. One thing the last few weeks has made me realize is how much I miss having my finger on that digital community pulse, because I’m seeing how valuable those insights could be in the room and how often they could be leveraged. That’s a big reason why our crisis team has been including our social media manager as early as possible as we handle COVID-19 communications, and we are reaping the benefits from doing so.

Crisis teams crafting messages need to remain small, but adding a social media manager may make yours much more efficient. I’ve put together five ways crisis teams can better involve their social media manager and how it can make a big difference in the important work that needs to be done.

  1. Include your social media manager in communications discussions as soon as possible. Social media managers spend part of their time anticipating questions and prepping answers to every piece of content they plan to share. They interact with your community every day, are experts when it comes to your audiences and will have a good idea of how they could react to news and announcements.
  2. Give your social media manager time to read your message, and then ask them for questions they anticipate getting. Many of the answers are likely talking points you’ve already developed. Provide approved institutional responses to as many of their questions as you can so they are armed with information. (Bonus: This helps cut down on “How do I handle this question?” emails after messages go out.)
  3. Encourage them to educate your group on where, when and how these messages should be distributed across social media. Is this an Instagram post? Is it a Story? This gives them additional time to thoughtfully plan and gets the crisis team thinking thoughtfully about all communications.
  4. Be mindful of what it takes to plan and execute social media posts. It’s not as simple as “Post this on Facebook.” This often includes synthesizing information and condensing it into brief snippets that fit within certain character counts and creating graphics and videos. They need to adjust communications to fit each medium they are sharing them on. They need time to do this well.
  5. After the communication is shared, ask your social media manager to summarize for your group what they experienced online. While you can see many of the public comments, what they had to handle in private messages will provide additional insights. Doing this will have a positive influence on your next communication or messages being shared.

In a crisis situation, it’s rare to have a win-win scenario. This is a step that teams can take where everyone benefits, but most importantly your community members do, and they are why you’re in the room in the first place.

Meg Bernier Keniston is the director of marketing and content strategy at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.


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