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Herding the Social Media Cats for Effective Crisis Management

How many social media accounts are under your brand's umbrella? Can you identify them all? Do you have emergency access to all? In the event of a negative issue or crisis surfacing on social media, it is paramount to be able to have emergency access to every social media account that represents your organization. But accomplishing that often looks a lot like this vintage Super Bowl commercial.


Social media grew at such a furious pace that many brands may have lost track of all their branded accounts. In order to have a streamlined and unified crisis response, organizations need to begin the arduous process of reaching out to all the social media accounts that bear their name.

In the first three installments of this crisis prevention series, we looked at the five key elements every brand needs to use social media in a crisis, how to set up a social media listening system to avert a crisis, and how the right social media policy can help you prevent a crisis. In this fourth installment, we'll look at how to establish a data base of social media accounts for your brand and why that is important.

1. Identify. Start by sending out an all-staff email asking for a list of all the social media accounts established by staff in your organization. Supplement this with a Google search and simple search tools like Social Mention, Twitter's search engine, and Facebook's search engine. Put your results in a data base. Be sure and ask for the following information on your staff email and make it clear you are asking for their help in establishing an accurate list of all social media accounts connected with the brand. Include personal brand accounts. Make sure you put a deadline on the reporting date. This will add to the urgency and need to report. Follow up with a phone call or personal visit a week later for those who do not respond.

  • channel (Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, etc)
  • person in charge of content and maintenance
  • URL of account

2. Survey. Take some time to review all the sites that you were not aware of previously. Get a feel for the content and how it complements or detracts from your brand message. Capture screen shots of the site's branding. If you have branding style requirements you'll want to make sure all your accounts are on board so that fans can visually identify all your social media channels by common style elements like logos, color, etc. Make notes of possible changes you can help facilitate.

3. Get your social media policy in order. If you haven't got an organizational social media policy that addresses this whole process, you'll have to consider this before you continue the process.  Helping staff understand the benefits of being under the brand umbrella is an important piece of this process. The most difficult task is convincing people with personal brands that their accounts are really joint accounts with the brand. Keep in mind the culture of your organization before you implement a blanket policy for personal brand social media accounts. There will be a lot of questions. Take your time bringing people on board and answer all their concerns before you make any "rules" about shared admin information.

Here's a sample from a policy I helped a client write defining the types of social media accounts that were covered in the department guidelines


 Social and Digital Media are defined as websites and applications designed to communicate online through social interaction.  Examples would be (but are not limited to) Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, message boards (such as or Reddit), commenting on news service sites, podcasts, online radio show blogs, and any other digital communication.

 Personal Site is defined as a social media site that is for the sole purpose of personal use.  There are no identifications of the person as a representative of ABC  Company, and content is personal and not reflective of employment at ABC.  These guidelines do not apply to your personal sites.  Personal site avatars and profile pictures should not reflect any association with ABC Company.

 ABC Company Accounts are defined as social media accounts that represent the ABC Company brand and may include a personal brand, team, or other entity.  Permission to set up an official social media account must be obtained from the department Social Media Manager.  Also, administrative rights must be shared with the Social Media Manager for emergency purposes only.  Administrators of official accounts must take a short training and sign-off on department use guidelines.  In order to be considered an official account and appear on the ABC Company website Social Media Directory or be advertised or promoted as such, these guidelines must be completed. Staff members should not use official department social media accounts to post personal opinions or personal messages.

 Personal Brand Site is defined as an account that you administer as a recognized employee of ABC Company.  Information that you transmit on that account is considered proprietary to ABC Company and is subject to responsible use guidelines.  If a coach or employee uses their personal name as the account username, the account name should be changed if they leave ABC Company.  If the account username is reflective of a team, program or ABC Company entity (such as ABC Football, etc.), the account access information will be changed for the new staff account manager .  Coaches and staff are encouraged to label their usernames of such accounts as “ABC________”, e.g. ABC_AD or ABC_Coach Smith.  Administrative rights must be shared with the department’s Social Media Manager for the purposes of emergency management and support. Please use care in expressing personal opinions on a personal brand site as the content reflects directly on ABC Company. 

4. Herd the cats. This will be the most difficult task of the process. Ultimately, you'll want to collect all the admin login information for all your branded accounts. I've found this is more like a selling process than an administrative one. In order to get buy-in for this process, you'll have to sell the benefits of being a part of the brand. Community managers should be identified as resources, not as policemen. The benefits of being a part of the brand should include help with content, help establishing a branded account including cover photos, backgrounds, content, and best practices. If your staff see this process as prohibitive and not helping, success will be difficult. Your ultimate goal is to make your brand presence on social media cohesive for fans. Sell the upside of the process. Make sure you develop a training module that all branded accounts must complete to be recognized as a branded account and provide a sign-off at the conclusion to keep track of admin information for emergencies. Here's a sample of what that might look like:

Registration of Official ABC Company Social Media Accounts

(Please fill out one for each official social media channel)

Date of Application________________________ Date of Account Publication_______________________________

Name________________________________ email________________________________________________

Cell Phone________________________________________________________________________________

Published Name on the Account________________________________________________________________ 

Channel (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)_______________________________________________________________

Account Username__________________________________________________________________________


Representing (Team/Entity/Personal Brand)________________________________________________________

I certify that I have received and understand the following:

 ______Department Branding and Logo Guidelines for Social Media

 ______Training on Responsible Use of Social Media                                    

 ______Best Practices Guide


Keep the paperwork on file and input the admin information into your data base for easy access during a crisis event.

5. Establish emergency protocols. This will include an explanation of how accounts may be accessed in an emergency. It might include but not be limited to:

  • Changing passwords in the event the account is hacked and the administrator cannot be reached
  • A request to delete a post that contains a possible illegal action or compliance violation. If admin cannot be reached, post will be deleted. Make sure you take a screen shot of any posts you delete first.
  • In the event of a crisis, social media managers may post important crisis information on channels

Bringing all your brand's social media accounts under one umbrella can be a laborious task, but it a labor of love for the brand. Preparing for a crisis online requires an "all hands on deck" approach.  Be sure and email me at if you have any questions about implementing a brand-wide social media crisis policy.

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