Gone are the days when “This has been a test of the emergency broadcast system” interrupted your favorite TV show. In an emergency situation today, you might receive a text from the city you live in—or you might log on to Twitter or another social media platform to stay current on the situation.
A recent piece in IA focused on an Agility Recovery webinar on Social Media and Disaster Recovery, spotlighting the important role insurance agents can play in keeping their social media followers informed (and safe) during a disaster or emergency situation.
The insurance companies you represent probably already provide great examples of what types of information to provide to social media followers in the event of an emergency. You have likely seen many social media posts along the lines of this one: “Was your home damaged in the recent earthquake? Call this toll-free number if you need to file a claim.”
How can you become a helpful resource during a catastrophe? Here are a few guidelines to get you started.
- Focus on developing your social media following now, before disaster strikes. The more followers you have, the more people you can potentially reach with vital information during and following a disaster.
- Develop a workflow so that you have a communications system in place in the event of a catastrophe. Determine who in your agency will be among the communicators in the event of an emergency. And seek out reliable sources of information to follow on your social media platforms, so that you can feel confident about sharing their posts during and after a disaster. As our guest blogger John Abbott, Director Agency Communications for Allianz Global Corporate and Specialty, pointed out, a solid framework is vital for emergency communications. “We have specific plans and protocols for using social media in cases like these, because response time is measured in minutes, not hours or days,” he said. (You may want to refer to this Agility Recovery crisis communications checklist for more specific pointers.)
- Focus on communicating with the appropriate tone. Respect the gravity of the situation, and do not make ill-timed jokes. Remember that social media is two-way communication, so if your followers ask you questions, be empathetic and caring when you respond.
- Brief messages are best. Provide accurate information: be sure to check that everything you share on social media is up-to-date. Don’t get involved in hypothetical discussions. Refer people to the proper resources (the insurance company claims number, the Red Cross or other support organization, etc.).
- Be responsive! If someone asks you a question, be sure to answer it—even if your answer is merely, “I wish I had more information.”
- Remember to update your followers about your agency’s reaction to the disaster. Is your office open? Are your staff coming to work? Is your phone or computer system still operational?
- Also remember that your social media communications will reach multiple audiences. In addition to members of your community (and, potentially, clients of your agency), your posts may be seen by your employees, representatives of insurance companies you represent, media, and competitors. Keep these different audiences in mind as you craft your posts.
- Do it right. To offer needed crisis communications, you have to be posting live. The situation can change rapidly, so scheduled posts or canned responses will not be effective (and may actually damage your social media reputation). Actively search out information that will be useful to your followers—starting with determining what hashtag people are using to facilitate conversations surrounding the disaster.
Social media has outstanding potential as an emergency communications vehicle, and your insurance social media platforms can be incredibly helpful to people struggling during and after a disaster. Take time now to ensure that you’re ready to launch your social media disaster recovery system.