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How to Handle Social Media for Business when Disaster Strikes

When a natural disaster happens, we are often tempted to hold up our phones and post the devastation on social media. It provides a connection to events, helps to alert friends and loved ones that we are safe and keeps them abreast of conditions.

But when it comes to social media for your business, it’s often unnecessary to become another “reporter” on your business page. At the same time, it can also be odd to go completely silent. Walking that line can be difficult, but having an emergency social media protocol in place can give you a path to follow when things are falling apart.

Unless you are psychic, chances are the posts you planned a month or more in advance won’t reflect the immediate situation during a disaster. Your first task is to assess the situation and audit all of your scheduled posts. You may need to alter or halt your scheduled posts.

A primary consideration for changing or rescheduling posts is if there’s loss of life anywhere – not just locally.  Make sure you aren’t being inadvertently callous or oblivious; you don’t want to be the person showing up on social media gushing over your adorable shop cat when the nation is in shock and mourning.

Next, given the situation, evaluate your scheduled content for insensitive messaging. That means keeping abreast of major media coverage. Be aware if events are still developing; don’t jump to conclusions or make pronouncements based on incomplete information.

Posting and advertising during a hurricane on the opposite coast isn’t a faux pas. You don’t need to stop your posts or focus solely on the disaster; it’s comforting to many people to see “business as usual” beyond the immediate disaster zone. Just be conscientious that your messaging is not “tone-deaf.”

During an emergency closer to home, whether local or regional, you should check to see if similar brands and colleagues are going dark. Look to see if your clients and competitors are responding in a personal way. Under these circumstances, you may want to postpone any new posts for 24 hours while you determine how you’ll want to respond.

Keep in mind that, regardless of what you see happening online, you may not want to just mirror others’ posts or go silent – if it’s your own community and you have a service you can offer that would be helpful, go ahead and offer it: a list of emergency numbers or shelters, emergency contact numbers, official information from trusted sources, or simple heartfelt condolences and an expression of concern and hope.

Of course, don’t spread rumors or contribute to panic. Your business especially is a foundational component of your community. Keeping a level head is more useful than joining a panicked mob.

You can also use natural disasters and crisis situations to talk about client care and how you perform in an emergency.

One of my favorite examples of compassion and practicality during a disaster was an initiative launched during 2013 by photographer Sarah Roshan of TruLife Studios. “Save My Colorado Wedding”[1] was a coalition of vendors and business owners that reached out to couples who were losing their venues due to flooding in Estes Park and elsewhere. They saved the day for over 25 couples by being proactive and engaged in their community through social media.

And finally, after the situation has passed, don’t forget to continue to talk about the crisis or natural disaster in terms of recovery.

What people often need most after a disaster is a sense of stability and hope. You can provide that by highlighting the things about your community that are still functioning and available.

In the example of Estes Park, that would be pictures of remodeled venues, grand re-openings, revegetation, and other signs of growth. Celebrate when your fellow businesses are back on their feet.  Be positive about what’s still available to your clients, customers, and community about what the future holds.

It’s the on-the-spot nature of social media that gives it such power and influence, but that means when huge events happen anywhere, near or far, they can affect you and your business. Having your social media disaster protocol in place can help you put your best foot forward for you, your clients, and your community.


Christie Osborne is the owner of Mountainside Media, a company that helps event industry professionals brands develop scalable marketing strategies that bring in more inquiries and leads. Christie is a national educator with recent speaking engagements at NACE Experience, WIPA and the ABC Conference.

[1]  Save My Colorado Wedding: Flooding Won’t Stop Love https://www.theepochtimes.com/save-my-colorado-wedding-flooding-wont-stop-love_287475.html Macisaac, Tara, EPOCH TIMES September 14, 2013 Updated: September 16, 2013


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Christie Osborne is the owner of Mountainside Media, a company that helps event industry professionals brands develop scalable marketing strategies that bring in more inquiries and leads. Christie is a national educator who recently presented at NACE Experience in both 2017 and 2018.

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