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Broadcasting Via Facebook Live During a Corporate Crisis

Broadcasting on Facebook Live in the future may save a company from irreparable brand damage. Situations like tainted food, data breaches, or rumors causing the value of a company's stock to plummet are the kinds of corporate crisis which keep PR people up at night. Facebook Live can provide an effective and affordable communication platform. Our experts outline how to use it to stay on top of a crisis.

Photo: Briggs Communications

When something bad happens, the likelihood of someone, somewhere immediately being online broadcasting a story which puts a company in a negative light is high. Gaining control quickly is vital so a situation doesn't go from bad to worse.

"I would expect to see a flood of social media in reaction to a corporate event or a natural disaster," says Howard Homonoff, senior vice president at strategy consulting firm MediaLink. "If you think about taking your phone and going to Facebook Live it really could be an effective means for reaching people."

Real Life Is Not Edited

A polished message might make executives happy, but when customers don't buy-in, their discontent has a way of spreading online like wildfire.

"I've seen a number of companies upload videos to YouTube or Facebook a day or two later," says James Fitzpatrick, senior technical advisor in crisis management at Briggs Communications in Melbourne, Australia. "I think you miss a lot of the opportunity [this way]," says Fitzpatrick.

Photo: Briggs Communications

"One of the mistakes people make is they put way too much effort into editing and being in control of the message," Fitzpatrick says. Quickly publishing transparent, sincere, and credible information can go a long way to keeping a brand's reputation intact. Anyone who has a Facebook page can publish to Facebook Live. Especially for organizations who have an active social following, this can be the perfect tool to reach an audience.

A Facebook Live broadcast can have much more impact than sending out a press release, says Jay Kolbe, senior vice president at Spark, an integrated marketing and PR agency. The immediacy and unedited nature of a message is more believable, and video showing human emotions sends a stronger message of compassion and corporate responsibility.

So far, few organizations have ventured onto Facebook Live. Why the hesitation? Fear of the unknown and stage freight.

"The idea of doing these unadulterated posts frightens a lot of people," Fitzpatrick says. Follow these steps to master using the platform for any type of crisis communications, which can happen to public, private, or non-profit organizations.

The Message and the Messenger

"There's a balance between how the legal people and the PR people treat a situation," Kolbe says. "The legal team will always tell you to shut it down." Corporate lawyers often advise the less information released, the better. Corporate communicators, on the other hand, know customers need a believable response to a problem and things which aren't addressed have a way of surfacing later and causing even more problems.

Fitzpatrick advises filling in relevant information in this five-part crisis communication plan:

  1. Establish the facts

  2. Broadcast known information

  3. Explain unknown circumstances

  4. Talk about the solution being acted on

  5. List what people should do now and where to go for further updates

Advice on message length? Keep it short and to the point, he says. (Read this tip sheet from Briggs Communications for more.)

Ideally, the company already has a spokesperson who can deliver the message. If not, identify who fits this role.

"Think about who your communicators are. What you don't want is everyone in the company sending messages out," Homonoff says. "If, for some reason, your spokesperson is unavailable, identify who are your backup speakers."

Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice makes perfect when it comes to talking on-air.

"Go thru a couple of simulations of whipping out the phone, getting one of those [five-part] message templates, and recording to camera," Fitzpatrick says. "We find in responding to a crisis, the key is practice. When the real thing happens, you can just roll it out fluently and naturally."

How something is said can be just as important as what is said. Check to see that practice sessions come across as on message and easy to understand.

"I also recommend getting someone else who is good at operating Facebook Live and has a little bit of camera experience to get the broadcast up and running. Practice that as well," Fitzpatrick advises.

Other things to plan for:

  • Identify the best location for shooting

  • Have a mic, a tripod, charged batteries and some basic lighting ready to go

  • Ensure there is good connectivity

Going Online

Facebook Live works on either a computer, tablet, or mobile device. A wired connection provides the best connectivity. Spotty cell coverage, especially when there are a lot of people on a cell network, can make streaming problematic.

"Think about redundancy in your communications ability. For example, you may not have good cell coverage where you are," Homonoff says. "If you can get the message to someone elsewhere and they're in a good spot, let them deliver the message." A satellite phone is another alternative.

Building an Audience Takes Time

"I think the biggest way to have people go to your site for a Facebook Live update in a crisis is to make sure that you are using it regularly beforehand," Fitzpatrick says. Send out a notification in advance by email, text, social media, or app notification saying there will be a broadcast in X minutes or at a specific time. Once the live broadcast starts, have someone check to be sure everything is broadcasting correctly. Be prepared for viewers to ask questions and have staff ready to respond.

Always Be Prepared

Rumors, fake news, employee dissent, and other real misfortune will always be there and can happen to any organization at any time. When something bad happens, having a conversation on Facebook Live is the start to keeping a brand's reputation intact.

Social media has changed how corporate communications is handled. While there are now a significant amount of citizen journalists happy to report on any corporate misstep, knowing how to put the other side of the story on Facebook Live is one way to keep a company safe.

Nadine Krefetz's article first appeared on OnlineVideo.net

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