"Is there damage to my house?"
"Is Maple Street flooded?"
"Is it safe to return home?"
How ready are you to answer these questions in the wake of a hurricane, sinkhole, or major snowstorm? Emergency preparedness goes beyond boarding up windows, having a supply kit ready, or practicing fire drills. It also means having a social media plan to share safety details and community information to residents and potential homebuyers.
In an emergency situation, posting the wrong information on social media may damage your reputation, or even worse, put people's lives at risk. But there's an opportunity to shine bright and help others even during difficult circumstances with a well-planned communication strategy.
Here are some tips that can help you share the right information at the right times in the midst of a crisis.
- Have a plan. Social media communication should be a part of your team's emergency preparedness plan. Decide who will be "on call" to manage posts, share information, and answer questions on your platforms. Remember, you can have an emergency over the weekend or at night, so having a plan in place can help you respond quickly. If everyone is affected in your area, including your management team, consider having off-site backup ready to support you.
- Stop your regular social media posts and ads. Having "business as usual" posts on your social media platforms during a crisis can be a big mistake. No one wants to see an ad about your amazing waterfront views during a major flooding event. In fact, they may open your brand up to negative comments on social media or give the appearance of being uncaring. If your community or area is in a crisis, pause all of your scheduled social media posts and advertising until you can evaluate the situation further. And even if your community is unaffected, be mindful of those nearby that may be less fortunate.
- Don't spread rumors. Reporting what you think you see or hear can be inaccurate or even dangerous during an emergency situation. Leave evacuations, road closures, public utility outages, and weather reports to the professionals. Instead, develop a list of official emergency management organizations‚Äô social media handles and websites, such as the local police department, city or county emergency management departments, FEMA, and NOAA. Share the list with your social media community at the onset of a crisis and encourage them to follow official sources of information during an event. Don't retweet or repost unofficial information, which could spread misinformation and cause additional panic or chaos. If you want to share, it's safest to repost from official sources.
- Understand what's yours to share. Avoid posting photos or details about damage to residents‚Äô personal property, information about homeowners‚Äô individual circumstances, or other areas outside of your professional responsibility. Instead, focus on amenities and infrastructure your community controls and maintains, such as trails, the club house, community pool, welcome center, or golf course. Also, give updates on any community events that might be cancelled or postponed because of the situation.
- Share early and at regular intervals. There's a natural tendency for people to assume the worst if they don't know what's happening. A solution to this is to communicate early and regularly. Even if you don't have anything new to share, it's sometimes better to say that than to remain silent. Have a coordinated response plan ready for social media comments and private messages you may receive.
- Recovery plan. As the situation passes and you go into recovery mode, plan how you will share progress. This might require coordinating with an HOA or other community-led organization that is in charge of reconstruction. Current residents, investors, and potential homebuyers will likely be interested in updates on rebuilding community infrastructure, when amenities will reopen, and construction progress. Social media is also a good place to share what efforts the community is doing to support residents, like giving away bottled water, providing dumpsters, or scheduling extra trash pick up.
- Show compassion. Safety, not sales, is your top priority during a crisis situation and its immediate aftermath. Emotions can run high during an emergency, so temper your responses and be thoughtful. Being factual, helpful, and empathetic can go a long way to provide reassurance and build credibility.
You can't choose if or when your community encounters a crisis, but you can choose how you plan for one and respond. Being on top of your social media communications can help your residents during a crisis and instill trust in your brand.