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Taming the Twitter Tyrant

It’s 3:31 a.m. and you just can’t sleep. There’s a weird light – wait - your phone screen is lit up – but why? You give it a glance and see hundreds of Twitter notifications. Further investigation reveals your CEO has been tweeting up a storm and it’s bad. Really bad. You roll over, hoping it’s a dream. But it’s not. What do you do?

The recent drama surrounding the late night twitter escapades of a political candidate reminds me of just how quickly a firestorm can build on social media.

Not everyone in communications has a CEO (or candidate) with millions of social media followers, but in our current “gotcha” social media landscape, one insensitive remark, unpopular opinion, or even an ill-timed post can bring a wrath of opposition and online hatred and notoriety to virtually anyone.

As a manager of social media, community manager, or public relations counsel for your company - how do you prepare for the worst?

Do you change the passwords to your CEO’s twitter account? Do you write a strict pre-approved message policy? Do you avoid social media altogether? Or do you begin a new job hunt?

In 2016, many prominent corporate heads are not social media aficionados. Of course, there are personalities like Richard Branson, Donald Trump and certainly Mark Zuckerberg who are the exceptions - communicating socially day to day in their business world – but for now, most are simply not that interested. Others may have a social presence, but it’s likely a skilled social media expert that carefully curates that persona behind the scenes. With each passing day, that changes. In just a few years, we will be facing a wave of young executives that have always been able to communicate instantly via social media.

The good news? The next influx of executives will be fluent in social media and its specific nuances. The bad news? They’re human and flawed, just like all of us. Some will be geniuses in their fields, some will be known for public speaking, some will be mild mannered, some will be outspoken, some will be controversial and some will be hot tempered.

The one thing they will all have in common? They have likely never known what it’s like to be required to take the time to sit down and write a letter, on actual paper, when it’s time to respond to a critical comment or outspoken detractor. They’ve not been forced to contemplate the ramifications of their response for more than a few minutes – because they haven’t had to. At executive level positions, most should have the needed wisdom, maturity and foresight to communicate appropriately on social media – but some may not.

Here’s where the skills of a communications professional become essential when managing your executive’s social media communication. Whether you’re working with an outspoken executive now, or planning for the future of executive communications on social media, here are 4 Tips for Taming the Twitter Tyrant you should consider.

  1. Start with a social media plan.

If you don’t already have a detailed social media policy in place, create one. The plan should clearly outline who is authorized to speak on behalf of the company, how the company should be referenced, who can reply to complaints, what is acceptable and what it not. Your executives may very well be authorized to speak on behalf of the company, and you may never need to reference the guidelines beyond the initial rollout. Still, having a clearly defined set of guidelines in place helps navigate any discussions if things go awry.

  1. Next develop a crisis communication plan.

Imagine a couple of worse case scenarios and develop a written plan of action to counter the fallout. Think about who becomes the spokesperson if an executive becomes embattled in a social media crisis, how will you respond – or will you respond? Consider all the options that could befall your very worst day and be prepared.

  1. Train your CEO

Just like being trained on how to handle the media in interviews, CEOs and other executives should be trained on how to interact, respond and communicate on social media as well. Having a voice that is representation of an entire company is a big responsibility that requires composure, finesse and wisdom. If your executives are prone to the occasional venomous office email – they may very well do the same on social media. Training, coaching and reminders are key.

  1. Get connected with a crisis communications professional.

If you don’t have the crisis communications skills you need in the case of an emergency, have a “fixer” or PR agency that specializes in crisis communications ready to assist you in such an instance. At the end of this article is an ebook you can download for more information on keeping your cool in a crisis communications situation.

Social media is simply another tool in a communicator’s toolbox that we must continue to learn to navigate as we did with the introduction of other mediums. Social media’s accessibility adds an additional layer of vulnerability if you happen to manage the social presence of a corporation with high-profile CEO. Being prepared gives you the advantage in the case of mishaps. Plan for the worst, yet hope for the best, and you’ll at least sleep a little better at night.

If you’d like to start preparing in advance of any late-night twitter tirades, considering downloading our ebook on 3 Steps to crisis communications - how to be the best on your worst day.” Or, if the “stuff” has already hit the fan and you need a fixer NOW – call us right away at 540-815-2478.

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