Why Your Community Manager Needs A Seat At The Crisis Planning Table

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In this guest post, CEO of Quiip, Alison Michalk (pictured below), says when it comes to C-suite decision making, the community manager is increasingly noticeable by their absence…

There are countless articles on how to manage an issue or crisis on social media. From timeliness and the need for a strong apology, through to open and transparent communication; the need for empathy and understanding; responses from the CEO; review your scheduled posts, change tack, address the issue at hand. So why do we keep seeing it go so wrong?

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Too often the community management team is not involved in the crisis planning. PR, comms, legal, the C-suite gather in the war room to craft their strategy, but the person or team you’re going to send to the lions is notably absent. And this person has spent months or years building relationships with customers.

Put bluntly, community management demands a level of seniority it’s not yet been granted.

Whilst community managers cannot often control the actual issue during a crisis – which we’ve seen first hand with the recent Optus World Cup technical streaming issue – they yield a huge amount of power in controlling brand reputation, customer experience, customer sentiment, customer loyalty and perception. It’s highly probable your community manager handles more consumer touchpoints than anyone in your organisation.

We so often see a huge gap between thorough risk mitigation and escalation policies and what is actually going to work on the ‘frontline’. No one in the organisation has a better finger on the pulse of your audience and how they need to be engaged with than your community management team. They must be empowered as to how best respond — and listened to when it comes to how customers needs can be met.

“Community managers can be caught in poor management or strategy. Often companies put their perception of brand reputation above the customer experience. Ie. they might try to ride out the issue without alerting other customers to it. This lack of customer service can implode and create even bigger issues,” says Dale Robert, senior marketing consultant at Bank Australia.

It certainly can be difficult to watch when a community manager has spent months or years building community, to be forced to execute a directive that undoes not only their own hard work, but impacts the brand’s reputation.

And during times of crisis varied stakeholders want in. If your community manager has to yield to pleasing each department, they often do so at the expense of their customers, and sometimes their own sanity.

“Knowing corporates well, there’s often a case where you don’t get to control the response. It’s not uncommon to find responses to crises become less human and controlled that they end up getting worse and people get inflamed. It’s a constant battle. My thoughts are with any team handling a crisis – stressful is an understatement at times,” Ray Pastoors, content marketing partner at Bupa.

Richard Branson once said the most powerful question a leader can ask is, “what do you think?”.  Next time your brand is facing an issue or crisis, call in your community manager and ask. I can guarantee they’ll have an informed opinion on how your brand can best manage your communication on social media.

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Alison Michalk quiip

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