Think before you Tweet to avoid kicking off a social media crisis

May 14, 2014 by Jonathan Hemus

As an Aston Villa fan, my interest in crisis management planning regularly extends beyond my professional life (through necessity rather than choice).

So, it was with interest that I noticed a photo tweeted by first team player Andi Weimannlast weekend.  It showed the players returning home on the team coach following their final thrashing of the season. Accompanied by the words “season done”, the photo shows “the lads” enjoying a laugh and a beer.

Avoiding a social media crisis

Unfortunately, it contravenes the first rule of communication planning (and media training), not to mention emphasizing the potential for a social media crisis generated by your own employees.

What is the golden rule?

Put yourself in the shoes of the audience with whom you are communicating and plan your communication accordingly.

After another season of dire football and narrowly avoiding relegation (apologies if I sound bitter), how do Villa fans feel?  Dejected, demoralized, let down, angry, short-changed – need I go on?

So the image of extravagantly paid footballers joking around and downing a few beers, apparently making light of their ineptitude, plays badly with their target audience.

Understand the context for communication

Interestingly, context and an understanding of your audience’s current emotions and perceptions can radically alter how communication is received.  When the England cricket team went on an almighty bender after regaining the Ashes in 2005, no one complained about images of a bleary-eyed Freddie Flintoff staggering towards 10 Downing Street.  The players were heroes and a night of celebration coincided exactly with what the fans were feeling and doing.

This principle applies just as much to business communication as it does to sport.  Unless you can put yourself in the shoes of your customers, employees and other stakeholders, you run the risk of getting your communication seriously wrong and scoring a reputation management own goal.

Thoughts on the related principle of how to prepare for a presentation in the video below:

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