With the growing use of social media to follow brands, rather than navigating to the brand’s corporate website, should your corporate website still be used as your crisis communications home base?
This is a good question. One you should aim to think through within your crisis preparedness.
So what’s the answer?
The truth is that, while you may have more than one “home base” today depending on your organization and its stakeholders’ preferred means of interacting with your brand, your corporate website is still a very important home base to maintain.
Let me explain further.
Social media platforms have developed into becoming a sort of micro-site for organizations. For example, if your stakeholders interact with your brand on Facebook, it’s proving more and more difficult to get them to click through to your website. The Facebook experience has grown to be a whole in and of itself. The same applies to LinkedIn, Instagram and most social media platforms with the exception of Twitter. This needs to be taken into account when strategizing your crisis communications: the fact that you won’t be able to force people to leave a platform that they expect a full engagement on.
But this emerging reality in no way depreciates the necessity or value of also leveraging your corporate website as a crisis communications home base.
Why your corporate website should still be used as a crisis communications home base
Following are some of the benefits of continuing to leverage your corporate website as a means of crisis communication:
It’s “owned” digital real-estate, not “rented” digital real-estate
Your corporate website is a platform that your organization owns and has complete control over. While social media platforms can feel as though they belong to the organization, the truth is that they’re rented real-estate. You have no control over these platforms if they, for example, were to experience a crisis of their own and go down in the midst of your crisis (remember the days of the Twitter whale?). Meanwhile your corporate website is 100% owned by your organization – just be sure to put the appropriate measures in place to ensure that it has the bandwidth and protection it needs against hackers and things like DoS or DDoS attacks.
It’s the best way to archive your crisis response
Everything you publish to your corporate website will go down in search engine history, making your important crisis communications searchable and findable by those looking for it in the future. While this may sound like a scary thing – “We don’t want people to be reminded of this crisis once it’s been resolved, we want them to forget about it!” – the fact is that if future stakeholders (from future investors and customers, to the media, etc.) go looking for your response to a past crisis or issue and they don’t find it, how might that impact their choice to do business with your organization, or the narrative of their article, etc.?
While you don’t want to keep your crisis response front and centre post-crisis, you do want to make sure it’s findable by those who deliberately go looking for it. This is an important aspect of your crisis communications strategy, one that is most effectively accomplished via your corporate website.
While a large majority of stakeholders may follow your organization on social media, there is probably still a portion that will reflexively navigate to your corporate website for more information regarding a crisis. When they arrive, you want to make sure they find what they’re looking for.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that not everyone is on social media, or that not everyone will instinctively navigate to social media during a crisis. This goes to the importance of knowing who your stakeholders are and what they will expect of your organization in a crisis.
It’s beneficial when leveraging platforms like Twitter
While you can post a lengthy response on certain platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, there are still platforms, such as Twitter, where part of the experience involves clicking through to third-party links, such as a blog, website or video. It’s also important to remember that not all Twitter users necessarily have LinkedIn or Facebook accounts. Therefore, if you were to link to your Facebook post, for example, it may not be as easily accessible as a public page on your website would be.
Additional tips for ensuring an effective website home base
- Make sure that your corporate website offers a great mobile user experience – the last thing you want is to frustrate people with a bad mobile experience.
- Consider offering a crisis communications email subscription for stakeholders to receive live updates from your organization throughout the crisis, directly in their inbox. This provides another direct means of communication for those who prefer it.
How then should social media be used for your crisis communications?
It all depends on how your key stakeholders use social media. For example, will they instinctively navigate to your company’s Facebook page to find information about the crisis and communicate with your organization? If so, then your Facebook page should be used as its own sort of crisis communications home base, in addition to your website, for the reasons expressed above.
The goal is to make your crisis communications easily accessible and to extend their reach to those who matter most to your organization. In order to do this, you want to leverage every platform that makes sense for you to do so, in the way that it makes sense for you to do so. Determining whether or not it makes sense depends on those that you will need to communicate with in the midst of a crisis. Are those people on social media? Do they actively use your corporate website? Do they regularly log on to your mobile app or a specific password protected portal within your corporate website (such as an investor portal, for example)? Do they prefer to receive email communications? Will your communications be easy to find once the crisis is resolved, for those who go looking for them?
While social media plays an important role in today’s crisis management, it’s important to not only look at social media. Don’t forget about or underestimate the other ways that will help ensure your organization’s successful crisis management.
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.