The Scottish referendum was an emotional time for many passionate Scots, no matter which side of the debate they were on. By the time we were called in, the situation had already reached crisis point; so much so, that the campaigners were known to be receiving death threats by the time we were called in to help. We therefore knew in advance that having a plan for crisis management would be imperative. Drafting social media content for a highly newsworthy topic was also a challenge.
For this campaign the most challenging task was reacting to angry voters that shared their views most publicly or manoeuvring around politicians that threw us a curve ball. We found that the best method to managing a crisis was to:
1. Always respond quickly – a day late was too long but angry comments grew quickly
2. Take down and block anyone using poor or abusive language immediately
3. Have dedicated staff ready at set times – particularly around posting times
4. Pre-plan a Frequently Asked Questions sheet – include some of challenging questions we might get
5. We empathised or acknowledged disgruntled comments
6. Where possible we turned the situation into a positive or a humorous read
7. If we were at fault we tried to find a solution quickly and publicise that solution
8. Document & practice fire drill procedure – this may involve a senior figurehead for serious problems
We thoroughly thought and drafted the content we posted on social media as it was a very divided time in Scotland and needed to be careful with what we posted and how we phrased it.
Results speak for themselves - Scotland remained in the EU and politicians gained a better understanding of how to handle negative voters and politicians. Who knows what would have happened to the outcome of the Brexit referendum if the DW approach was used?