Sunday, April 20, 2014

What happens when social media goes awry?

In the discussion of the last few weeks, we have really focused on the sunny side of social media entry into the channel via Facebook to engage the healthcare consumer and patient's. But what happens when the special media channel turns bad on the hospital or health system?  It could be from a disgruntled patient, angry family, a vindictive employee, HIPAA violation, or poor judgment in content posted or reposted.  No organization is perfect so it must be anticipated that it will happen at some point. After all, the healthcare consumer, newly insured and patients are the new paparazzi. And staff makes mistakes. It happens.

Don't Panic

This is not to minimize in any fashion the seriousness of what is taking place. It’s to get one’s attention. 

Sometimes it becomes way too easy to panic. And that really needs to be avoided at all costs. So take these steps to mitigate the social media communications crisis to protect the brand and organizational reputation. Many of the steps are parallel and not sequential.

What to do when social media goes bad:
1.)    Do treat this as a communications failure and have a social media crisis communications plan already in place.
2.)    Understand what happened and why. Identify who the influencers will be to add voice and impact the conversation.
3.)    Actively monitor your online reputation.
4.)    Avoid the informational black hole.  Be ready with appropriate information and press statements.  You can’t hold a news conference every time you want to say something.
5.)    Have social medium appropriate messaging.
6.)    Integrate your response across all social media activities. Remember that some reporters use Twitter as a basis for information and facts without verifying the authenticity of the information.
7.)    If the organization blew it, take ownership.  No excuses, the appearances of excuses or pejorative behavior are allowed.  Social media users are a pretty savvy group and will see right through it. It will only make matters worse.
8.)    Integrate paid and earned media.
9.)    Have clear rules of social media engagement by employees.
10.)  Don’t forget to use your employees and their access to social media and how they can influence the conversation.  Employees are your secret weapon in this battle.

And lastly, here is hoping that a social media crisis never comes to your doorstep.

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