Preparing Your Credit Union for Social Media Blunders, Catastrophe and More

Crisis lurks out there. It can be man-made or an act of God. Social media, unfortunately, is a risk factor. However, it’s also one of a crises best cures.

Last week, an employee at Max Credit Union sparked a controversy when they shared personal information about a member on the credit union’s Facebook page.


Policy guides use, but not all use can be pre-conceived

Well-meaning social media policies and guidance can protect organizations, guide use and mitigate risk. But in the Max Credit Union case, this was a case of a Common Sense gap.

It should go without saying “Don’t post account holder’s personal information on social media”, right?  Social Media Policies can only reach so far. They can’t conceive of every possible use or human conception.

Said another way. Social Media provides more than a marketing channel. It can be the very tool used to mitigate the crisis a credit union faces, even if IT (social media) caused the crisis.

As such, policies can not possibly conceive all use cases.

Social Media and Crisis, Cause & Cure

While policy can’t prevent all lapses in human common sense, the very channel that caused the crisis is often in demand to help solve the crisis. Regardless of disaster, social media is a powerful tool for your credit union to both mitigate a crisis and serve your members.

Social Media usage skyrockets during crisis events.  Expectations on social media are also high. According to the American Red Cross, in times of natural disaster, nearly 3/4 of all adults expect emergency responders to send help within one hour of social media requests being made.

Sure, your credit union isn’t an emergency responder. But you are responsible for timely and accurate information regarding the security the financial well being of your members. Additionally, supporting your community in times of crisis is a strong brand builder.

In their paper, Examining the Role of Social Media in Effective Crisis Management:The Effects of Crisis Origin, Information Form, and Source on Publics’ Crisis Responses, Yan Jin , Brooke Fisher Liu , and Lucinda L. Austin point out that”social media provide emotional support after crises through enabling [audiences] to virtually band together, share information, and demand resolution. This online participation during crises often is replicated in offline participation in crisis resolution.” (2011)

The need to prepare to mitigate crisis, self and nature made

So while a social media policy can’t have hundreds of pages for every lapse in common sense and included lines explicitly saying “you can’t post that,” not that that would be much value anyway, your policy can provide some guidance for situations conceived now and broadly in the future.

Here are a few items to consider in preparing yourself,  your team and updating your policies to manage through self-made and man made crisis. No policy at all? Check out our downloadable social media policy template for credit unions to get you started.

Define “CRISIS”

This is another one of those areas you can’t account for all possible variables. But try your best. Someone saying something mean about your credit union once on facebook, isn’t really a “crisis.” A one hour power outage on your block, not a crisis. You can use some broad strokes if you want but look at things like:

Reach – How many people are being affected by this event? Is it a significant portion of your membership? It could constitute a crisis.

Severity – On a scale of 1 – 10, how severe are the repercussions of this crisis. Repercussions can be a lot of things. Legal fallout, damage to brand, financial loss, and damage to property to name a few.

Duration – Is this a short lived event or does this event have long lingering effects?

Additionally the folks at Convince and Convert have some guidance on this topic as well. In particular what constitutes a social media specific crisis.

Name a crisis management team

You might already have a crisis communications plan in place for things like natural disasters, data breaches or other catastrophes. When social media is involved, take it a step further. Name a group of people who are responsible for the following things:

Handling public concern. These people will be online and offline. Someone in your branch(es) as well as a social media “command center.” This should be someone more senior who can be trusted and held accountability for staying on message.

Media spokesperson. There should always be a strong media spokesperson. Someone selected who is calm, collected and presents well with the media. This isn’t always your CEO, of VP of Marketing. This is someone who can handle a barrage of questions and put the media in their place when they need to be but also seen as sympathetic and compassion towards anyone affected by the event.

Internal spokesperson. Just like you need someone responsible for communicating with external audiences, you need someone as a point of contact for internal questions and concerns. This person also needs to be able to think fast on their feet and handle anything that might get thrown at them in a dicey situation but also someone who can show empathy when necessary.

Legal counsel. Finally. You need a legal counsel counterpart who can be available with a quick turnaround to provide guidance on statements, strategy and ensure compliance as you navigate the fallout from your crisis.

Conduct a post-mortem

Once the storm passes, and they always do, pull your crisis team together and few members fo you senior management team and those from the front line together for a round table. Here you will discuss the event. What went well, what went badly. The goal of this is to document the experience and produce a post-mortem document to add to your previous memo as continued guidance. The reason? No amount of planning can prepare for every situation. In today’s 24/7 always on world your digital channels serve a lot of masters from cleaning up messes in lapses of common sense to communicating in times of community crisis.

A social media policy can’t prepare and protect against all possible crisis but having a small team dedicated to quick reaction and analysis can prepare your credit union and position you to mitigate risk, reduce fall out and move through the crisis in the best possible light.

Have the last word

What say you? What did we miss or what would you add? Leave a comment and let us know.