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Social media policy is first line of defence for online crisis management

February 20, 2012 by Jonathan Hemus

A series of YouTube videos by an American Airlines employee have added to the issues management challenges of a company already facing an uncertain business future.

The humorous videos by a flight attendant parody the firm’s management and reveal the content of an internal memo sent to staff.  A discussion is developing on ragan.com as to the appropriateness of American Airlines response to the issue and whether it has the right to “censor” its employees.

Crisis management is always more challenging when an issue is internally generated rather than caused by an external event.  To reduce the likelihood of such an incident and therefore minimise reputational harm, a strategy of prevention must be prioritised.  The critical first step in this is the introduction and internal communication of a social media policy.  Although many businesses already have such a policy in place, a significant minority do not.

Whilst a policy cannot entirely prevent an internally generated social media crisis, it does ensure that expectations are clear so that staff understand the ground rules for their use of social media.  Take a look at this site for examples of social media policies from some of the world’s biggest organisations.   American Airlines may well be taking an urgent look at it right now.

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