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The Good and Bad News of Crisis Preparedness in Higher Ed: What You Need

The good news: 85 percent of higher education institutions have a crisis communications plan (CASE/Syme, 2012). The bad news? Only 59 percent of those same institutions address the use of social media in their policy. Given that almost 100 percent of institutions are using social media, it is alarming to think that many universities are neglecting their best means of getting important real-time information to the public in the event of a crisis.

In my e-book Listen, Engage, Respond, I cover the importance of building an online monitoring system and using engagement strategies in social media that are designed to build a loyalty cushion for crisis. In this current blog series, we are looking at the respond component of the comprehensive strategy. We’ll start out with a mile-high view of the necessary components and dig in to several in the coming weeks. Successful management of a crisis in social media is more about planning than anything else.  Here are ten elements you’ll need to include in your plan to receive an “A” in crisis preparedness in higher ed:

  1. Current SWOT or risk analysis (performed regularly for the organization and at the onset of a crisis event). I prefer the SWOT method because it causes you to address the real opportunities in any event. Too often, crisis managers look at the weaknesses and threats only.
  2. General organizational communications crisis plan. Social media is only one part of your communications plan. Be sure you have a general strategy document that covers all communication channels, online and offline. This document houses your main message points.
  3. Current staff and organizational flow chart that shows chain of command in a crisis.
  4. Key stakeholder groups prioritized and segmented for content. Who will you communicate with, what will you share, in what order, and when?
  5. Command center logistics/operations for onsite and offsite.
  6. Designated on-site and off-site spokespeople for communications and operations. Include a media training component.
  7. Social media policy that includes triage response. We will delve into the specifics of this component in the next post.
  8. Guidelines and schedules for training, table top exercises, and post-crisis evaluation.
  9. Inventory of all communication channels and how they will be used including signage, website, internal communications, and any other touch points the organization has including social media channels. This sections may include “holding messages” for different channels.
  10. Appendix of all forms, logs, and templates.

Anything you would add or subtract? Do you have a plan? Next up: Designing a Social Media Policy that Works in a Crisis.