Can You Forbid Employees from Discussing a Crisis on Social Media?
Today’s Q&A Monday answers reader Charlie’s question:
“During an incident can you forbid your staff to use social media to comment on the incident, even if it is their own twitter or Facebook and they are only open to their friends?”
First, let me begin by saying that I’m not a fan of the word “forbid”. However, during a crisis, it’s extremely important that your entire staff understands:
- What is going on
- What is expected of them, including what questions they’re permitted to answer, and where to send inquiries that they are not permitted to answer
This is why crisis training is so important pre-crisis, as well as why an internal communications platform for crisis management is so highly recommended.
During a crisis, the last thing you want to have to worry about, on top of everything else that is already stressing you out, is who within your team may or may not be discussing private details that have not yet been made public – even if only to their own friends and family. This is how rumors begin and such “leakage” will not help you regain control of the situation any faster.
The only way to prevent such errors from occurring, is not by forbidding the use of social media, but by training your staff pre-crisis and by communicating with them during the crisis. As Jonathan Bernstein of Bernstein Crisis Management says: “Every employee is a public relations representative and crisis manager for your organization, whether you want them to be or not.” It’s important that you realize this and prepare for it accordingly.
“Such an important consideration. Often employees want to vent and they may do it online or through email or text with people outside the company. Also, some employees want to help and feel that using their private account to post responses/replies to other commenters will mean that the company won’t have to worry about it.
Unfortunately, for both the employee and the company there may be significant legal consequences. An employee who shares confidential information may put their job at risk or make the matter worse for the company. An employee who doesn’t agree with the unified corporate message may undermine the legal steps the company must take to preserve their legal position if the situation is one that may go to court/arbitration.
It’s these types of reasons that make it even more important for a crisis management plan to have an internal communication component.”
Other articles that may interest you on this subject:
- How To Empower Your Employees For A Social Media Crisis
- Handling the Media in a Crisis: Why Your Entire Team Needs to be Prepared