Every day there are many conversations happening about your brand, your competitors and your industry throughout the social space. But what if one of these conversations has the potential to escalate into a full on crisis? Are you prepared? Companies must have the tools in place to respond promptly, accurately and confidently during an emergency. If history tells us anything, the image of your company can be positively or negatively impacted by the way you publicly handle the incident – and a key component to preparing for handling crises is building a social media crisis escalation chart.

The first step in developing your response protocol is defining what a crisis is for your company, and who in your organization should be alerted to take action in different scenarios. The more severe the issue, the more senior the responder.

Here’s an example of a social media crisis escalation chart to give you a little inspiration:

Very Low

Customer Service Responds

Maybe a disgruntled customer is airing his grievances on social media – there is no real threat at this level, but you need to always be prepared by listening for these conversations to address any rumblings that could potentially escalate. Your first step at this level is to evaluate the conversation about your brand – address the situation at hand, and quickly provide any help or information necessary.

Low – Pending Situation

Customer Service Responds with Management’s Guidance

If the complaints are beginning to echo throughout the social space, it’s good practice to alert management early on and quickly distinguish between basic customer service complaints and a crisis. Determine the severity, based on your company’s definition of a crisis, and watch these conversations closely – provide any help or information necessary, and try to take the conversation offline and route to the correct department/member of your organization.


Management Gets Involved Directly

If the negative conversations around your brand have stretched beyond social media to blogs and forums, it’s absolutely crucial to make sure you are completely aware of the full capacity of the negative mentions about your brand. You may have discovered a blog post campaigning against your brand, or maybe you found a few negative reviews in forums, but in order to begin fixing and addressing the problem, you need to monitor social media closely to know if this is the extent of the problem or just the tip of the iceberg.

DKNY recently found themselves in an online situation that could have escalated and created a potential crisis for the brand. However, it didn’t – the company was accused of using stolen photos in a storefront window, and the photographer called them out on a facebook fan page – DKNY provided a prompt and honest response before the issue escalated.



Manager Responds – Executive Team Notified

If your crisis has hit mainstream news, it’s time for a brand intervention –  begin to make the appropriate changes according to the customer complaints – and let your community know these changes are taking place. Create content if necessary, and monitor all social channels heavily.


Executive Team Responds

Crisis recovery needs to begin as soon as a crisis hits, and must be built on honesty and transparency. The next step is to show clearly what you’re doing to address these problems. Create multiple forms of content – for example create a blog or a YouTube video to address the issue and outline the steps you are taking to rectify, and offer a sincere apology from a senior executive through your social channels.

FedEx was faced with a crisis management challenge when a video of an employee carelessly tossing a package went viral. FedEx VP, Matthew Thornton,  provided a speedy response to the crisis with a candid and honest apology in a YouTube video that was shared over 50,000 times.

Part of crisis management is ensuring that you are aware of any crisis from the moment it develops. By implementing a monitoring tool into your listening strategy, and knowing what topics to listen to, you will help your brand catch and address any issues before they escalate.

Additional Research: Don’t Be Scared Be Prepared – Jay Baer