5 Must-Do’s When Leveraging Twitter in a Crisis

twitter-in-a-crisisGerald Baron recently wrote:

“If you do nothing else in a major event other than providing near continuous tweets about what you know and what you don’t know, in 140 character bites, you will still be the communication champ. “

And how right he was in saying so! From the Boston Marathon Bombings, to The Atlanta Public Schools Shooting and even the KitchenAid rogue tweet fiasco, we’ve seen what excellent Twitter communications in a crisis can do. To the contrary, we’ve also seen the many repercussions that countless brands have faced after failing to leverage Twitter in a crisis.

There’s no way around it: Embrace Twitter and learn how to leverage it in a crisis

Twitter is here to stay and is on the fast track to becoming the leading force in news coverage today. Not sure how true this statement is? Consider this: within 3 hours of the Boston Marathon Bombings, Twitter had more than 500,000 tweets with the hashtag #bostonmarathon – not to mention the amount of tweets with different or no hashtags about the attack. This just goes to show what a powerful and driving force Twitter has become, and will continue to be. Understanding how to leverage this powerful platform within your crisis communications is critical for your brand’s successful crisis management.

That said, here are 5 tips for leveraging Twitter in a crisis

  1. Begin by enabling your team to properly and efficiently monitor the Twitter-sphere for any mentions of your brand, products, services and team members. This includes monitoring tweets, mentions and hashtags in real-time, followed by being able to filter through the many mentions, questions and discussions that will be tweeted to and about your brand in a crisis. (Here are 2 useful monitoring tools you may want to check out: Twilert and CrisisVu)
  2. Whenever there are new updates and information to report, and even when there aren’t, tweet it. Link to pages with more detailed information when appropriate, and make sure every update is tweeted with the appropriate hashtag(s).
  3. Keep an eye out for developing rumors and speculation, responding and politely correcting each one before it begins to be retweeted and develop into another serious issue within the crisis.
  4. Let your audience know where to follow you for updates and information on the crisis. There’s no sense in tweeting and communicating if no one is listening or knows where to look for you.
  5. Have pre-approved 140 character (less is better) holding statements and messaging ready to go before a crisis strikes. You can tweak and make changes as needed, but having pre-approved messaging goes a long way in the midst of a crisis.

Twitter is not going anywhere and absolutely needs to be a part of your crisis communications plan. Being prepared with a minimum of the above five must-do’s in a crisis will take you a long way in being seen as, as Gerald put it, a “communication champ”.

Melissa Agnes is an international crisis management keynote speaker and consultant. President of the crisis management firm Agnes + Day, Melissa has developed a worldwide reputation for crisis management, planning and training by helping global brands and government agencies prevent and manage a wide range of issues and crises. She is also the editor of The Crisis Intelligence Blog and host of The Crisis Intelligence Podcast.

4 Comments. Leave new

Great post Melissa. Twitter is a powerful news channel in its own right and comes into its own in a crisis. If continuous tweeting, then it's very important to put a keyword at the very start of the tweet e.g. URGENT, ALERT, UPDATE. The starter words are as important as are date stamps and can follow the stages that the media report a crisis. And as you say it's important to link to other sites for in-depth information, official information – if doing that then tweets need to be 112 characters.


Great additional notes, Janie! And to add… when possible, it's important to *try* to use less characters so that people can retweet without the message being cut or continued with "…"

Ron Colangelo
May 22, 2013 11:35 pm

Appreciate the post. Helpful on many levels. Jane's input complements your efforts.


It very much does! I'm glad you enjoyed the post, Ron, and thanks for your feedback.


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